Oct. 18, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A day before the schools meet on the football field, Notre Dame and USC will clash in men’s tennis action Friday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Nos. 4-6 singles will begin at 4:00 p.m., while doubles will start at 7:00 p.m. with Nos. 1-3 singles to follow. The Irish women’s team will also take on the Trojans in a match played concurrently. The match result will not count in either team’s record, but all matches will count for individual ranking purposes.
The match will be between two teams expected to be among the best in the country this season. The Trojans were 15-9 a season ago and advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament before finishing with a national ranking of No. 20. USC returns all six starters from that squad. The Trojans feature the #1 doubles team in the nation, according to the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings — senior two-time All-Americans Ryan Moore and Nick Rainey. Five USC players are ranked in singles, led by senior All-American Andrew Park, ranked eighth. Moore (23rd) and Rainey (69th) also carry singles rankings, as do sophomore Damien Spizzo (63rd) and freshman Prakash Amritraj (97th).
The Irish are also expected to be among the nation’s elite this season. Notre Dame was 17-7 a season ago and finished the season ranked 16th after briefly breaking into the national top 10. The Irish return eight monogram winners from that squad, including their top five players. Irish seniors Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) and Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), the 34th-ranked doubles team in the nation, are expected to face Moore and Rainey at No. 1 doubles tomorrow, marking the second time in less than two weeks the Irish pair has faced one of the top two doubles teams in the country. Smith and Taborga lost 8-6 to Stanford’s Scott Lipsky and David Martin, the second-ranked team, in the first round of the ITA All-American Championships last week. Taborga and Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) battled Moore and Rainey to a tiebreaker in 1999 before losing 9-8 (12-10).
ITA ALL-AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Smith, Taborga and Talarico participated in the first national collegiate tournament of the season, the ITA All-American Championships from Oct. 9-14 at the Lincoln Tennis Center in Stone Mountain, Ga. Smith and Taborga had a successful week, winning six of seven matches to claim the consolation doubles title. The team won a pair of qualifying matches to gain entry into the main draw where they lost to top-seeded Lipsky and Martin (who advanced to the final before losing) in the first round. Smith and Taborga then won four consecutive matches, including three victories over top-30 doubles teams, to win the consolation championship. The Irish pair knocked off #12 Olivier Levant/Eleazar Magallan of Florida in the quarterfinals before defeating #14 Michael Calkins/Amer Delic of Illinois and #26 James Cameron and John Chesworth of Furman to win the title. All three Irish players competed in the singles tournament. Taborga and Talarico lost their first qualifying matches, while Smith, who had automatic entry into the main draw, won his first-round tilt before losing to eventual finalist Kosta Zinchanka of South Alabama.
NOTRE DAME-USC SERIES HISTORY
* USC leads the all-time series 8-1, but the teams have played twice in fall exhibition play since their last official meeting, in the 1993 NCAA tournament. This is the second time in three years the teams will meet in exhibition play.
* Notre Dame and USC last met in the fall of 1999 with the Trojans gaining a 4-3 road victory on the strength of three-set victories at No. 2 (Park d. Smith) and No. 3 (Moore d. Taborga) singles. Played under the same format as this year’s match, the Irish took a 2-1 lead in the first three matches with wins by current Irish seniors Andrew Laflin and Aaron Talarico, but then were swept in doubles and lost two of the remaining three singles matches.
* Notre Dame’s lone victory over the Trojans came in the 1992 NCAA semifinals. The Irish upset the top-ranked Trojans 5-1 to advance to the national title match for the first time in school history. Bob Bayliss is 1-4 against USC.
* The Irish and Trojans met in the NCAA tournament three consecutive seasons, 1991-93, with USC gaining shutout wins in the first and last meeting.
ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame has three players and two doubles teams ranked in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings. Casey Smith, who finished last season ranked 65th in singles, is the highest ranked Irish singles player at a career-high 38th. Javier Taborga is ranked 76th and sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) broke into the rankings for the first time, tied for 100th. In doubles, the team of Haddock-Morales and Aaron Talarico is ranked 30th, while Smith and Taborga are 30th. Taborga and Talarico were ranked as high as ninth in the country last season before finishing with a no. 20 ranking.