October 2, 1998
NOTRE DAME. Ind. – The Notre Dame menis tennis team opens its 1998-99 dual match season Friday night at 7:30 p.m., when the Irish welcome defending NCAA champion Stanford to the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame will take a young, untested lineup into the match against Stanford, which lost three of its top four players from 1998 to graduation and the professional tour.
“Our guys are really excited about the match,” said Irish head coach and 1998 BIG EAST coach of the year Bob Bayliss. “We are anxious to find out where we are at this point in the year.”
Notre Dame and Stanford will square off for the first time since meeting in the 1992 NCAA championship match. The 10th-seeded Irish remain the lowest seed and the only non-Sun Belt school to reach the final. Second-seeded Stanford ended Notre Dame’s run with a 5-0 win at the final.
The 1998-99 Cardinal will be led by legendary head coach Dick Gould, who enters his 33rd year as head coach at Stanford. Already honored as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association coach of the decade for the 90’s, Gould recently was named the United States Olympic Committee coach of the year for all sports.
Junior All-American Ryan Sachire and senior captains Brian Patterson and Andy Warford will lead the Irish against the Cardinal. Sachire, ranked eighth by the ITA in singles in the preseason poll, is expected to face sixth-ranked Ryan Wolters at No. 1 singles in a rematch of the 1997 NCAA singles championship second round, won by Wolters 6-2, 6-2.
Patterson will move up to No. 2 singles after posting a 19-2 record at No. 3 singles a year ago. Warford moves into No. 3 singles after playing at the bottom of the Irish lineup a year ago.
“Andy’s jump to No. 3 is a reflection of how far he has come more than about any weaknesses we have,” said Bayliss.
The Irish will put with a sophomore and two freshmen in the bottom half of the lineup. Freshman Casey Smith, who won his flight at the Rice Invitational on Sept. 20, will hold down the No. 4 singles spot, while sophomore Matt Daly will play at No. 5 singles. Freshman Andrew Laflin will round out the Notre Dame singles lineup at No. 6.
In addition to Wolters, Stanford will counter with a combination of juniors Geoff Abrams, ranked 53rd, and David Hauser, sophomores Ali Ansari, 30th-ranked Alex Kim and Scotty Scott and 95th-ranked freshman K.J. Hippensteel. Hippensteel enters Stanford after a standout junior career which he capped off by winning the boysi junior doubles title at the U.S. Open.
In doubles, Patterson and Sachire will team up for the first time to form the preseason 28th-ranked team in the country. Patterson teamed with the now-graduated Jakub Pietrowski in the past, and the pair qualified for the last two NCAA championships. They likely will face 21st-ranked Wolters and Hippensteel.
Daly and Smith will pair at No. 2 doubles for the Irish, while Warford and freshman Aaron Talarico will play at No. 3.
“The individual matchups could be intriguing,” said Bayliss. “We are still searching for chemistry in doubles and that concerns me, but Stanford hasnit had a lot of time to prepare either. Weill have to see how things go.”
The teams also will play exhibition matches at No. 7 and 8 singles and at No. 4 doubles. Freshmen Javier Taborga and Talarico will square off at Nos. 7 and 8, respectively, for the Irish while Taborga and Laflin will play at No. 4 doubles.
“It is very early in the year for both teams, and there will be changes in the lineups and team chemistry as the year goes by, but it is a great way to take on an early challenge.” said Bayliss.