March 12, 2003
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A rigorous series of tests await the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (4-6) as it prepares to open play at the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic Thursday in Montgomery, Ala., at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center. The 46th-ranked Irish are one of 15 ranked teams in this year’s 16-team field, with eight of the participants appearing in the top 50 of the latest ITA rankings. For the second consecutive year, Notre Dame will face No. 57 Tulsa in its first round match on Thursday, having dispatched the Golden Hurricane, 4-0, to open last year’s event. That proved to be a good omen for the Irish, who went on to reach the finals of the Blue/Gray Classic for the fourth time in school history before falling to Illinois. Notre Dame is participating in the Blue/Gray Classic for the 14th consecutive season, having compiled a 29-16 (.644) all-time record in the prestigious event with two tournament championships (1993, 2001).
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame registered its first home victory of the season, defeating No. 57 Michigan, 5-2 on Thursday, March 6 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish (4-6) won the doubles point and the first three singles matches completed to jump out to a 4-0 lead and clinch the win before the Wolverines (5-5) won two of the remaining three contests. Notre Dame has won four of its last six matches after starting the spring with four consecutive losses.
The Irish reversed their fortunes at the bottom two positions to claim the doubles point for the second straight match. After sweeping the doubles matches in the season opener, Notre Dame’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams each had managed just one win in the next eight contests prior to facing Michigan. Junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) and sophomore Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.), teaming together for the first time since Jan. 26, delivered an 8-5 win at No. 3 to get the Irish started. A pair of Irish captains, senior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) and junior Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), clinched the doubles point for the second time in as many matches, with an 8-6 win at No. 2. Michigan avoided the sweep when Chris Rolf and Michael Rubin finished an 8-5 victory at No. 1.
Sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) got his first win in nearly a month, defeating Chris Shaya 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3. After starting the spring 6-0, D’Amico had lost two straight and sat out one match due to injury. He is 12-6 overall this season, including 7-2 at No. 3 singles after going 1-3 in dual-match play a year ago, all at No. 6. Lopez-Acevedo then put the Irish within a point of victory with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Vinny Gossain at No. 6. The Bowling Green State transfer has won four of his last six matches, with one loss coming in a match tiebreaker and the other in three sets.
The Irish victory was clinched by freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.), who delivered a 7-5, 6-3 triumph at No. 5 against Josef Fischer. Buchanan has won five of his last six singles matches.
IRISH vs. GOLDEN HURRICANE: Tulsa enters the Blue/Gray Classic with a record of 7-7 and a No. 57 ranking in the latest ITA survey. The Golden Hurricane have gone through an up-and-down season thus far, winning their first three, followed by losses in seven of their next eight, before righting the ship with three consecutive victories. UT has two wins over ranked opponents this season, downing No. 61 New Mexico, 5-2, on Feb. 9, and ousting No. 71 Michigan State, 6-1 on March 6. The Golden Hurricane has two common opponents with Notre Dame ? Michigan and Michigan State ? going 1-1 against this pair, while the Irish defeated both flagship schools from the Wolverine State.
Tulsa has two players who appear in the latest ITA singles rankings. Junior Alejandro Tejerina is No. 66 in the nation with a 18-9 individual record, while junior Dustin Taylor stands 96th in the country with a 12-11 singles mark. Taylor is ranked in doubles as well, teaming with senior Ryan Livesay for a 15-9 record and the No. 55 ranking in this week’s poll.
Vince Westbrook is in his 12th season at Tulsa, sporting a 154-134 (.535) record at the school. He has piloted the Golden Hurricane to a berth in the NCAA Championships seven times in the last eight years.
Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time against Tulsa, including a 4-0 victory over the Golden Hurricane in the first round of last year’s Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic. The other Irish win was a 5-4 conquest in 1979.
IRISH vs. REST OF THE TOURNAMENT FIELD: With a victory over Tulsa, Notre Dame would advance to the quarterfinals against either No. 13 North Carolina (the tournament’s second seed) or unranked UAB. The other matchups in Notre Dame’s half of the bracket are No. 43 South Alabama vs. No. 52 William & Mary, and No. 27 Tulane (the third seed) vs. No. 68 Boise State. The Irish have a winning record against USA (1-0), W&M (3-1) and BSU (3-2), and are even all-time against Tulane (2-2).
On the other side of the bracket, top seed and 19th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth opens with No. 63 Furman, while No. 40 Brown will battle 56th-ranked Fresno State. The remaining quarter of the field sees No. 30 Harvard taking on 60th-ranked Middle Tennessee, and No. 34 Rice facing off with 53rd-ranked Indiana State. Notre Dame has winning series records against four teams in this half of the bracket ? VCU (1-0), Furman (2-0), Harvard (4-3) and ISU (16-4), with even marks against Fresno State (1-1) and Rice (1-1). Should the Irish meet Brown or Middle Tennessee, it would be their first-ever match with those schools.
IRISH AT THE BLUE/GRAY NATIONAL TENNIS CLASSIC: Notre Dame is making its 14th consecutive appearance in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic this weekend. The Irish have posted a 29-16 (.644) record in the Montgomery, Ala., based tournament, with four trips to the championship match under their belts. Notre Dame has won two Blue/Gray Classic titles (1993, 2001), and reached the finals in 1998 and 2002. In addition, the Irish finished in a tie for third place during their second visit to the tournament in 1991.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame stands 46th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in this week’s Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings. The Irish have been listed in every set of national rankings since head coach Bob Bayliss, in just his third year at the school, guided Notre Dame to its first-ever national ranking midway through the 1990 season, meaning the Irish have been consistently ranked for over 13 consecutive seasons, in more than 200 straight sets of rankings. Notre Dame’s current ranking matches the lowest for the Irish since the ITA began ranking more than 25 teams in 1994.
The fourth set of individual national rankings was announced on Wednesday, with no Irish players receiving mention. New sets of individual rankings will be released every two weeks through the end of the season.
DO THEY ALL HAVE TO BE THIS CLOSE?: The Irish have had a penchant for playing matches with outcomes undecided until late in the affair. Five of 10 matches this spring have been decided by 4-3 scores (after just eight 4-3 matches in 30 contests a year ago), with four of those tilts being decided by the last singles match on-court. The Irish also lost 4-2 to Duke with the abandoned match in a third set.
Notre Dame is 2-3 in one-point matches in ’03, but the Irish have lost three of four contests that have come down to a final singles match with the teams knotted at 3-3. Zach Held pulled out a three-setter against Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) to lead Indiana over the Irish in the season opener. At No. 1, Mat Cloer finished a close straight-set decision over Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) to help Florida State edge Notre Dame. Each of the last two Irish matches have not only come down to the last match on-court, but have been decided by a third-set tiebreaker in that contest. Haddock topped Andy Formanczyk 7-2 in the breaker at No. 1 in Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State, but Adam Schaechterle topped Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) 7-3 in the deciding tiebreaker to help Northwestern over the Irish just three days later. Both of those deciding matches also featured tiebreakers prior to the final set.
BIG ELEVEN (OR TWELVE)?: Though Notre Dame participates in the BIG EAST Conference in men’s tennis, a glance at the Irish schedule may not bear out that fact. Notre Dame will face only a pair of BIG EAST foes (Virginia Tech and Miami) during the regular season, but will take on a total of nine teams from the Big Ten Conference. Only Penn State and Iowa from the Big Ten will not play the Irish this season. A year ago, Notre Dame played 13 matches against Big Ten teams (including the Blue/Gray Classic and NCAA tournament), posting a 9-4 mark. In ’03, the Irish are 4-4 thus far, with a match remaining against No. 12 Minnesota (March 22).
Notre Dame has had a long history of playing the teams that now make up the Big Ten, posting an all-time 305-222-2 (.578) mark, averaging nearly seven matches per season against Big Ten teams in the 81-year history of the program. The Irish have played each of the original 10 members of the conference at least 25 times, holding a winning mark against every team but Michigan (22-41).
STREAKING SCOTTY: Irish junior Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) has shrugged off a slow start to become one of Notre Dame’s most consistent winners of late. After opening the season 5-11 in singles, the tri-captain has won six of his last seven at No. 2 singles — five in straight sets — including the clinching match in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win over Purdue. Scott was 32-5 overall last year in singles and 24-3 in dual matches.
Scott also has caught fire in doubles with partner Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School), winning four of seven matches at No. 1 to improve to 6-6 this season.
THE PUERTO RICAN WAY: Notre Dame’s two Puerto Rican players, Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista), have played so many marathon matches of late that they may think they are back on the clay courts of their homeland. Three of the last five matches for Haddock at No. 1 singles have been decided in 12 games or more in the third set, with the Puerto Rican playing five tiebreakers in those contests. He topped Wisconsin’s Alexander Kasarov 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 on Feb. 4 before beating Michigan State’s Andy Formanczyk 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-2) and losing to Tommy Hanus 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-3), 7-5 in back-to-back matches.
After playing five matches decided in match tiebreakers in the fall, Lopez-Acevedo has had five of his last eight matches be undecided after two sets, going 1-4 in those contests. He fell 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to Purdue’s Troy Havens in the first round of the Omni Hotels Midwest Championships to close out the fall before opening the spring with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 loss to Illinois’ Chris Martin. David Robinson of Purdue gained a 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 1-0 (10-8) win over Lopez-Acevedo before the Irish junior beat Michigan State’s Jimmy McGuire 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 and lost to Northwestern’s Ahmed Wahla 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in consecutive matches.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Masters at Masters.email@example.com, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.
— ND —