May 12, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 14th-seeded University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championships with a 4-0 victory over 40th-ranked Purdue Sunday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won the doubles point and the first three singles matches completed to earn a berth in the round of 16 for the first time since 1994. Notre Dame will face third-seeded Illinois on Saturday in College Station, Texas. The Irish and Illini have matched up twice already this season, with Notre Dame winning 4-3 on the road, indoors, and Illinois gaining a 4-2 victory outside in the final of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic.
Notre Dame improved to 23-6, which also marks the most wins by an Irish team in a season since ’94. Purdue concludes its season at 13-12 after matching its best-ever result in the NCAA tournament.
For the second day in a row, the doubles point came down to the No. 3 spot as the last match on-court and for the second consecutive day, the Irish team of freshman Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.) and sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) came through in the clutch. After the teams had split the other doubles contests, D’Amico and Haddock-Morales were on serve with Purdue’s resilient pair of Seth McKinley and Derek Miller until the final game of the match. With McKinley serving at 8-7 in an attempt to force a tiebreaker, the Irish team saved two game points and finally converted on its third match point to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. D’Amico and Haddock-Morales are now 4-0 as a doubles team and three of those victories have clinched the doubles point for Notre Dame.
“We knew Purdue would play great doubles,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss. “We felt that if we could win the doubles point, we had a really good chance to win the match. It couldn’t have been any closer. We’re excited to beat Purdue and really excited to advance to College Station.”
Seniors Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) and Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) set the table for D’Amico/Haddock-Morales with an 8-5 victory at No. 2 doubles. Purdue’s Scott Mayer and Dan Swan then pulled off an 8-5 upset of the fifth-ranked doubles team in the country, Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) and Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), at No. 1 in the only victory on the day for the Boilermakers.
Notre Dame clinched the match by capturing each of the first three singles matches off the court, while the remaining three tilts were in third sets. Sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) gave Notre Dame a 2-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-3 victory at No. 5. Scott is 32-4 this season, including 24-2 in dual matches. Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) put his team within a point of victory with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph at No. 6. Laflin improved to 24-1 in 2001-02, including 18-1 in dual-match action. The Irish senior has won 38 of his last 41 matches. Laflin completed his home career on a 22-match winning streak in contests at the Courtney Tennis Center and Eck Tennis Pavilion and with a 38-6 career record in home matches.
Talarico provided the win that propelled the Irish into the round of 16, which came in the form of a 7-5, 6-3 victory at No. 3 singles. Prior to the victory, the Irish senior had been forced to abandon each of his last three matches and four of his last five.
“It was a great feeling to play here for four years and then clinch this match,” said Talarico. “It just really feels good. It was a great way to go out. I will remember it forever.”
Purdue head coach Tim Madden was complementary of Notre Dame’s effort: “I think Notre Dame plays so great as a team and I believe that starts with the coach. Every time we play them, it is a difficult match. Notre Dame always sends six quality players out there to play singles. They have great senior leadership and that is what is allowing them to continue advancing in this tournament. If we have to lose before the round of 16, I would rather lose to Notre Dame, which plays like a team and has great leadership.”
Notre Dame, which also defeated the Boilermakers by a 7-0 score earlier this year in the same location, has won each of its last 13 meetings with Purdue. The Irish lead the all-time series 43-8 and the 43 victories marks the most over any opponent in the 80-year history of the program.
The Irish advanced to the final 16 in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in school history. Notre Dame’s other four trips to the Sweet 16 were in its first four NCAA appearances (1991-94). The Irish are 2-2 in round-of-16 play The win marked the second time the Irish advanced out of their own regional to the national site (also in ’94) after losing at home in NCAA action in 1995, ’96 and ’98.
Illinois, the next opponent for the Irish, advanced to College Station with a 4-0 win over Indiana State in other second-round action on Saturday. In the first matchup between Notre Dame and the Illini this season, Smith came through with a 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4 win over Brian Wilson at No. 2 in the last match on-court with the score tied 3-3. The Irish also got wins at Nos. 1 and 6 singles and won the doubles point. In the Blue/Gray final, Illinois won the doubles point and at Nos. 2, 5 and 6 singles to defeat an Irish team playing without Talarico. Illinois has won six of the last seven meetings between the schools.
“We feel we have a fair shot to win and that’s all you can ask for,” said Bayliss of his team’s upcoming match. “It will be a great matchup and we feel it will be a toss-up.”
#14 Notre Dame 4, #40 Purdue 0
No. 1: #15 Javier Taborga (ND) vs. #118 Scott Mayer (P) 3-6, 6-4, 3-1, abandoned
No. 2: #102 Casey Smith (ND) vs. Derek Miller (P) 4-6, 6-3, 3-2, abandoned
No. 3: Aaron Talarico (ND) d. Carl McCafferty (P) 7-5, 6-3
No. 4: Luis Haddock-Morales (ND) vs. Andrew Wakefield (P) 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, abandoned
No. 5: #120 Matthew Scott (ND) d. Laith Al-Agba (P) 6-2, 6-3
No. 6: Andrew Laflin (ND) d. Troy Havens (P) 6-2, 6-1
No. 1: Mayer/Dan Swan (P) d. #5 Smith/Taborga (ND) 8-5
No. 2: Ashok Raju/Talarico (ND) d. Al-Agba/McCafferty (P) 8-5
No. 3: D’Amico/Haddock-Morales (ND) d. Seth McKinley/Miller (P) 9-7