Nov. 1, 2000
Following a season in which the Notre Dame men’s tennis team won its fewest matches ever under 14th year head coach Bob Bayliss, the Irish seem poised to reassert themselves. A youthful, talented team that lacked only experience, Notre Dame was within a number of upset wins last season.
“I don’t think I have ever coached a team that came so close to making a major breakthrough but came up just short so often,” says Bayliss.
“Last season we started four, sometimes five, sophomores and, on occasion, a freshman as well. We were up in matches against top 10 teams but just couldn’t quite close the door. We were just a bit too young to measure up to a pretty difficult schedule and maintain the top 20 status which had been our consistent place in the 1990s. These were lessons learned last year that will be important to our 2001 season. “
Also important to the team will be overcoming the loss of three-time All-American and national senior player-of-the-year Ryan Sachire — a four-year fixture at No. 1 singles and the only Irish player under Bayliss to win at least 30 matches for four years.
“Replacing Ryan Sachire at No. 1 will be difficult, if not impossible,” says Bayliss, who welcomes former Georgia Perimeter College national championship head coach Billy Pate as his assistant. “However all of our returning players have demonstrated a commitment and resolve that I have not seen here since our back-to-back top 10 finishes in 1992 and 1993.”
The core of these returning players originates from the Irish junior class. Casey Smith has played as high as No. 2 in the singles lineup, while Javier Taborga and Aaron Talarico will be the top doubles team once again in addition to playing high singles. Andrew Laflin has the most career singles wins of his class, while James Malhame figured in the Irish doubles lineup last year. Jimmy Rogers also should provide depth.
“Those sophomores from last year are now juniors — a year older, a year bigger, a year stronger and a year more experienced,” says Bayliss.
“They are now ready to convert last year’s missed opportunities.”
Bayliss also expects to receive important contributions from the senior class. Ashok Raju has worked hard to break into the doubles lineup where he saw action in six dual matches last year, while Matt Daly and Mark Overdevest look to recover from injuries that sidelined them last year after they were slated to be part of the singles lineups. Ricky Buhrman also could contribute.
Among the sophomore class, Brian Farrell gained the most match play last year with 11 appearances at No. 6 singles. Bryan Acken has improved to position himself for a potential break into the lineup, while Jake Cram could see time in the doubles lineup. Tim Giattina, Adrian Hidaka, Chancey Martin and T Moss also could contribute.
Bayliss also anticipates significant contributions from members of the freshman class. Luis Haddock-Morales, a highly ranked United State Tennis Association junior, and Matt Scott, who spent the last four years in Paris prior to coming to Notre Dame, both are expected to provide immediate contributions. Ben Hatten and Paul Hidaka will take advantage of the collegiate level to develop their games.
“I think we can become one of the great surprises of this men’s college tennis season,” says Bayliss. “We seem to have a genuine desire to compete and excel. The chemistry this fall is the best I’ve seen since in a number of years. We have experience, talented freshmen who will make major contributions and a renewed sense of commitment. I think we can get it done this spring — and we will return almost all the key players for 2002.”