March 16, 2002
Montgomery, Ala. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team rallied from a 3-1 deficit in defeating Harvard 4-3 in the semifinals of the 2002 Blue-Gray National Classic. Notre Dame, who won the Blue-Gray title in 2001 and is ranked fourth in the nation, improves to 15-3 this season and will play No. 8 Illinois for the 2002 title on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. EST.
The Irish once again had to rally after losing the doubles point. After falling in its match yesterday, Notre Dame’s number-one doubles team of Casey Smith and Javier Taborga, ranked fifth in the nation, rebounded to beat 25th-ranked Oliver Choo and Jonathan Chu 8-6. The duo has now won 10 of its last 13 matches. The No. 2 doubles team of Notre Dame’s James Malhame and Ashok Raju lost to David Lingman and Chris Chiou 8-5, knotting the doubles matches at 1-1. Notre Dame’s third doubles team of Aaron Talarico and Brent D’Amico, who was down two break points at 7-3, rallied to tie the match at 8-8. The duo then lost the tie-breaker 8-6 to Dalibor Snyder and Mark Riddell, giving Harvard the all-important doubles points and a 1-0 lead in the match.
Notre Dame knotted the team score at 1-1 when senior Andrew Laflin extended his personal winning streak to 16 matches, including 14-0 at the No. 6 singles position, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Brian Wan.
But the tie was short-lived as the Irish soon fell behind 3-1 after both senior Casey Smith and Aaron Talarico lost. After losing a first set tiebreaker 7-2 to Chu, Smith lost the second set 6-1. Talarico took the first set of his match against Cliff Ngyuen 6-4, but the 90-degree temperatures took their toll on the senior as he lost the next two sets 6-0 and 6-0.
Sophomore Matt Scott put the Irish in striking distance with a 6-4, 6-4 win over George Turner and sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales soon tied the match at three with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-1 in the tiebreaker) win over Riddell.
That put the fate of the Irish into the hands of Taborga, who is ranked 20th in the nation. Taborga did not disappoint as defeated Lingman 6-4 in the third set, giving the Irish the win and a chance to face Illinois for the team title. After splitting the first two sets with Taborga winning the first 6-1 and Lingman the second 7-5, the third was tied at 3-3 before Taborga got the break and the victory. The senior is now 14-1 at the No. 1 position and has won all three of his singles matches this weekend at the Blue-Gray Classic.
Notre Dame will be looking for its second win in 11 days against the Illini. The Irish upset then-No. 1 Illinois, 4-3, on Thursday, March 7, in Champaign. Illinois advanced to the finals after defeating San Diego State today 4-2.
o The Notre Dame men’s tennis team has a record of 8-7 all-time on St. Patrick’s Day.
o The Irish are playing in their 10th Blue-Gray National Classic in 2002, having good success in this tournament in the past. The Irish have won the tournament twice (1993 and 2001) and have an overall record of 19-11 (.633) in Montgomery, including a 16-5 (.762) record the past six years.
#4 Notre Dame 4, Harvard 3(Notre Dame players listed first)
#20 Javier Taborga def. David Lingman 6-1, 5-7, 6-4Casey Smith lost to Jonathan Chu 7-6 (2), 6-1#121 Aaron Talarico lost to Cliff Ngyuen 6-4, 0-6, 0-6Luis Haddock-Morales def. Mark Riddell 6-4, 7-6 (1)#53 Matt Scott def. George Turner 6-4, 6-4Andrew Laflin def. Brian Wan 6-2, 6-3
Doubles:#5 Smith/Taborga def. Oliver Choo/Chu 8-6James Malhame/Ashok Raju lost to Lingman/Chris Chiou 8-5Talarico/Brent D'Amico lost to Dalibor Snyder/Riddell 9-8 (6)