May 14, 2000
WESTWOOD, Calif. — The 34th-ranked Notre Dame men’s tennis team’s upset bid fell short at second-ranked UCLA by a 4-2 score in the NCAA second round on Sunday. After falling behind 3-1, the Irish won at No. 6 singles and were tied at 4-4 in the third set at No.4 singles when the Bruins won the fourth point to clinch the win. Sophomores Casey Smith and Andrew Laflin each won for Notre Dame, which ends its season with a 13-11 record. UCLA improves to 23-3 and advances to the NCAA round of 16.
“I’m really proud of the way we played,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss, wrapping up in his 30th year of coaching and 13th at Notre Dame. “I’ve never had a team play harder than this. It’s another tough loss for us this season, but I’ve never been prouder of the effort we showed today.”
The Bruins began the match by winning at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles to take a 1-0 lead heading into singles. The 41st-ranked pair of Jean-Noel Grinda and Jean-Julien Rojer beat the 29th-ranked Irish team of sophomores Javier Taborga and Aaron Talarico 8-3 at No. 1 doubles. The Bruins also won at No. 3 doubles as Lassi Ketola and Travis Rettenmaier beat junior Matt Daly and Smith 8-4.
The teams split a pair of straight-set singles matches at the middle of the lineup. Smith defeated 64th-ranked Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 6-4 at No. 3 singles, while Ketola downed Taborga 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) at No. 4 singles. UCLA then took a 3-1 lead when 47th-ranked Grinda beat Daly 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Laflin pulled the Irish within 3-2 when he held on to beat Chris Sands 6-4, 7-5 at No. 6 singles. Talarico was tied with Erfan Djahangiri at 4-4 in the third set and led 40-15 on Djahangiri’s serve when the match was completed.
“Casey played the best match of his Notre Dame career,” said Bayliss. “It was a big win for Casey. Matt had a little trouble closing out games but he was actually dictating play against Grinda. Andrew did really well in winning after he had led 5-3 in the second set. Aaron was scrapping unbelievably well out there and played great all weekend. We showed a level of tennis we hadn’t displayed all season.”
UCLA’s 27th-ranked senior Jong-Min Lee held on beat Notre Dame’s ninth-ranked senior Ryan Sachire 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the deciding match at No. 1 singles. Sachire saved six match points and rallied from 2-5 in the third set before losing just his fifth dual singles match of the season. He finishes his Irish career with a 77-19 record in dual singles matches, all at No. 1 singles.
“If we are in that situation, I want Ryan Sachire on the court,” said Bayliss. “Ryan showed a tremendous amount of courage in coming back from 2-5 and saving all those match points. We were literally a couple of bounces away from beating the No. 2 team in the country. We return five of six singles players next year so this is something we can build on.”
With the team’s season complete, Sachire, Taborga and Talarico return to action when they compete in the NCAA singles and doubles championships May 24-28 in Athens, Ga. Sachire will make his fourth consecutive appearance in the singles tournament, while Taborga and Talarico will play in their first doubles championship.
#2 UCLA 4, #34 NOTRE DAME 2
No. 1: #27 Jong-Min Lee (UCLA) def. #9 Ryan Sachire (ND) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
No. 2: #47 Jean-Noel Grinda (UCLA) def. Matt Daly (ND) 6-4, 6-3
No. 3: Casey Smith (ND) def. #64 Jean-Julien Rojer (UCLA) 6-4, 6-4
No. 4: Lassi Ketola (UCLA) def. Javier Taborga (ND) 6-1, 7-6 (2)
No. 5: Aaron Talarico (ND) vs. Erfan Djahangiri (UCLA) 3-6, 6-4, 4-4, abandoned
No. 6: Andrew Laflin (ND) def. Chris Sands (UCLA) 6-4, 7-5
No. 1: #41 Grinda/Rojer (UCLA) def. Talarico/Taborga (ND) 8-3
No. 2: Sachire/Miller (ND) vs. Lee/Sands (UCLA) 6-7, abandoned
No. 3: Ketola/Rettenmaier (UCLA) def. Smith/Daly (ND) 8-4