April 3, 2004
The 26th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (12-7, 1-1) will play its penultimate match of the regular season this weekend, heading to #50 Virginia Tech (12-8, 1-0) for an 11:30 a.m. (EDT) match on Sunday at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center. It will be a rematch of last year’s classic four-hour-and-48-minute BIG EAST Championship semifinal, in which the teams split the singles contests, and the Irish eventually prevailed 4-3. The match will have major implications in seeding for this year’s BIG EAST tournament, slated for April 29-May 1 in Coral Gables, Fla.
LIVESTATS AVAILABLE FOR ND-VT MATCH: Fans and media unable to attend Sunday’s match will be able to follow the action via live scoring, available through the official website of Virginia Tech athletics at http://www.hokiesports.com/mtennis/live/. Scores will be updated every 5-10 minutes as play progresses. For other ways to follow the Irish, see “Keeping Up With Notre Dame Tennis” at the end of this release.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: Notre Dame registered a 4-3 road win over Ball State last Sunday. After dropping the doubles point, the Irish dominated the bottom of the singles lineup, claiming victories at the lowest four positions to emerge with the win. Freshman Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) finished first, defeating Patrick Thompson 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3. Freshman Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) followed suit at the No. 4 position, topping Michael Heule 6-2, 6-4. At No. 6 singles, sophomore Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) had a straight-set win, upending Brad Rhodes 6-0, 7-6 (7-5). Freshman Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) then sealed the victory for the Irish, edging out Paul Newman in a three-set decision 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
IRISH vs. HOKIES: After being 55th in the preseason, Virginia Tech comes into the weekend ranked 50th with a 12-8 (1-0 BIG EAST) record and riding a seven-match winning streak. All of the Hokies losses came to teams currently in the national top 60, including five in the top 20: #3 Mississippi, #7 Rice, #12 Virginia, #16 Virginia, #18 North Carolina, #41 SMU, #53 William & Mary, and #57 Old Dominion. VT has five victories against teams currently in the national rankings (vs. #39 Brown, #51 Penn State, #61 Texas Tech, and #74 Middle Tennessee State). Notre Dame and the Hokies have played two common opponents — the Buckeyes and the Mustangs. Both teams lost to Ohio State (4-3 for ND, 7-0 for VT), while Notre Dame beat SMU 5-2, and Tech lost 4-3. Senior Andreas Laulund from Denmark is the Hokies’ top singles player, currently ranked 57th after peaking at 39th. He is 18-9 on the season, including 13-5 in dual matches at No. 1.
The Hokies returned five letterwinners, including three starters, from last year’s team that was 18-7 and finished 52nd in the national rankings. Virginia Tech, seeded second, lost 4-3 to third-seeded Notre Dame in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship. Gone from that team are two players that finished the season in the national singles rankings: Saber Kadiri (107th) and Francis Huot (124th). Back are Laulund, an NCAA singles qualifier last year, and junior Stephane Rod of Switzerland. Laulund ended 2002-03 ranked 92nd in singles, while that pair was 59th in doubles. Jim Thompson, the 2003 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, is in his sixth season leading the Tech program, having compiled a 101-55 (.647) record.
Notre Dame and Virginia Tech will meet in the regular season for the second year in a row and for the sixth time overall. The Irish have won four of the previous five contests. This will be the first trip to Virginia Tech for Notre Dame since 1977 and fourth overall (Irish have won in two of three previous visits). Prior to last year, the teams had only met three times, all in Blacksburg. Notre Dame took the initial meeting in 1956 by a score of 12-0, then won 9-0 in 1961. The lone Hokies victory in the series was a 7-2 triumph in 1977. A year ago, Notre Dame won 5-2 at home in the regular season and 4-3 in the BIG EAST semis. This will be the third straight meeting in which both teams carry national rankings into the match, but it marks the first time ever that the Irish are ranked higher than VT.
On March 23, 2003, 58th-ranked Notre Dame was victorious in renewing the rivalry after a 25-year hiatus, taking a 5-2 decision over #48 Virginia Tech in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The doubles point came down to the final match on-court and four singles contests were decided in three sets. At No. 2 doubles, Brian Farrell and Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) beat Angel Diankov and Grant Reynolds 8-6 to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. In singles, Diankov beat Jimmy Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) in three sets, but the Irish won the other three contests decided in three. Haddock topped Huot at No. 1, while Farrell upset #64 Kadiri at No. 3, and Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) clinched the win by beating Michael Kurz at No. 5.
The teams battled for four hours and 48 minutes before #54 Notre Dame pulled out a 4-3 win over the 41st-ranked Hokies on April 27 in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals in Coral Gables, Fla. Singles was played first and the teams split the six matches. Though Diankov beat Buchanan in three sets at No. 6, Haddock again outlasted Huot at No. 1 and Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo beat Kurz in three at No. 5 to force doubles play. Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) and Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) delivered the Irish win by beating Laulund and Rod 8-6 at No. 1.
ITA RANKINGS: After beating Ball State on the road last Sunday, Notre Dame jumped 10 spots to a season-high 26th in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings, the second determined by the point-per-match computer formula. It is the highest ranking for the Irish since they finished 2001-02 at 14th.
Senior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), who had a five-match winning streak broken on Sunday, reentered the national singles rankings at 80th. He is 18-10 this season, including 9-5 in dual matches at No. 1.
BIG EAST UPDATE: Nine members of the BIG EAST Conference (all but Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall, Syracuse, and West Virginia) field teams in men’s tennis, but the league does not require round-robin competition during the season. The top six teams, as selected by the conference based on national ranking and head-to-head results, earn invitations to the BIG EAST Championship, slated for April 29-May 1 in Coral Gables, Fla. at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Miami. The top two seeds receive first-round byes and the tournament champion receives the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.
Three BIG EAST teams are currently listed in the national rankings, and, thus, figure to be locks to gain entrance in the conference tournament. Notre Dame is 26th, while Miami is 30th, and Virginia Tech is 50th. The Hurricanes beat Notre Dame 5-2 in their only league match of the season, while the Irish and Hokies will play this weekend.
The remaining six conference teams choose to participate in round-robin action against each other. Among the unranked squads, the favorites to earn the final three spots seem to be Rutgers, St. John’s, and Boston College, though there are nine BIG EAST matches to be played before the league tournament. The Scarlet Knights have won both of their league tilts thus far, defeating Georgetown (4-3) and Villanova (6-1), while St. John’s topped Boston College 5-2. The Eagles have a 4-3 win over Georgetown. In the only other two conference matches already played, Georgetown beat Villanova 4-3 and the Wildcats topped Connecticut 6-1.
STREAKING STEPHEN: Freshman Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) has been Notre Dame’s most consistent winner in singles this season. He leads the team in both overall and dual-match victories, sporting a 20-6 record, including 14-4 in dual matches at Nos. 3 and 4. He has won seven of his last eight contests and is 11-2 in home matches. Bass holds a brilliant 7-0 record in three-set contests and amazingly has a winning record — 6-5 — when dropping the first set. He is 8-3 against Midwest Region opponents.
HOT HADDOCK: Senior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) has been on a hot streak of late, winning five in a row before a third-set defeat on Sunday when he was battling illness. On the season, he is 17-10, including 9-5 in dual matches at No. 1. All four of his previous defeats this spring had come against ranked opponents. After upsets of #51 Greg Shearer of Fresno State and #13 Romain Ambert of Mississippi State in the Blue/Gray National Classic, Haddock jumped back into the national singles rankings at 80th. He also was on the verge of a third upset at the Blue/Gray, leading VCU’s 84th-ranked Pedro Nieto 6-4, 3-2 when the contest was abandoned.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Sophomore Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) has been outstanding for the Irish this season, compiling an 18-5 record in singles, including 9-3 in dual matches at Nos. 5 and 6. He also is 9-6 in doubles (5-4 dual). As a freshman, he was winless in six dual-match appearances in singles, finishing 9-12 overall.
SENIOR CAPTAINS A DOUBLES FORCE: Senior tri-captains Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) have combined to be a force in doubles this season, compiling a 12-2 record, including 9-2 in dual matches at No. 2 since being paried together on Feb. 15. The duo earned its first-ever national ranking earlier this season, 29th, and holds a 17-4 career record together. Haddock and Scott are 8-1 against Midwest Region foes and 7-0 in home matches.
DON’T TAKE HIM TO THE LIMIT: Freshman Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) has been unbeatable in third sets this season, going 7-0 in three-set affairs. Incredibly, he has a winning record — 6-5 — when losing the first set.
FABULOUS FRESHMEN: Notre Dame’s freshman class has been a big part of its success this season, as Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School), Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College), and Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) have been regulars in the Irish lineups, while Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School) and Bobby McNally (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Preparatory School) have also seen occasional dual-match action. Bass leads the Irish in overall and dual singles victories, holding a 20-6 record (14-4 dual), playing Nos. 3 and 4. King is 13-10 (9-7 dual) playing Nos. 3, 4, and 5, while Keckley is 12-6 (6-4 dual) at Nos. 4, 5, and 6. Keckley became just the second Irish freshman ever to earn a national ranking in doubles, and he has played No. 1 all season (7-9 record). King and Bass also have seen time in the doubles lineup.
TELLING SIGNS: The Nos. 4 and 5 singles matches have been telling indicators of the Irish team success this season. Notre Dame is 11-0 when winning at No. 5 singles and 0-5 when dropping the No. 4 contest.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2004 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 21 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 12 of them earned berths in last year’s NCAA tournament and 16 of them are in this week’s ITA national rankings, including nine in the top 35. Three Irish foes — #1 Illinois (L, 0-7), #6 Duke (L, 0-7), and #8 VCU (L, 0-4) — are in the top 10, while #16 Ohio State (L, 3-4) and #25 Texas A&M (L, 2-5) are also in the top 25.
WHERE ARE ALL THE MATCHES?: Notre Dame will play just two dual matches this month in the 28 days prior to the BIG EAST Championship. The Irish will take on Virginia Tech this Sunday and play at Florida State on April 12 before taking a 17-day hiatus prior to the league tournament.
WE WON’T BE HOME SOON: Notre Dame played all nine of its home matches this season prior to spring break, leaving the Irish away from home for the final two-and-a-half months of the season following their home finale on March 2 against Michigan State.
BAYLISS GETS 300TH WIN AT NOTRE DAME: Notre Dame’s 5-2 win at Northwestern on Feb. 21 marked the 300th for head coach Bob Bayliss since he took over the reins of the Irish program in 1987-88. He holds a 306-147 (.675) record in 16-plus seasons leading Notre Dame. He is second on the Irish all-time wins list behind his predecessor, Tom Fallon, who had a 514-194 (.726) record in 31 years coaching the Irish. Bayliss holds a 588-241 (.709) overall record in 35 years as a head coach.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Bob Bayliss is in his 17th year at Notre Dame with a 306-147 (.675) record and his 35th year as a collegiate head coach with a 588-241 (.709) mark. He ranks fifth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories and has had just one losing season in his career. Bayliss’ Irish have finished in the top 20 nine times in the past 14 years, advancing to the NCAA round of 16 on five occasions, highlighted by a quarterfinal appearance in 1993 and a national runner-up finish in ’92. Bayliss, named national coach of the year in 1980 and ’92, is a four-time midwest region coach of the year and has been honored as his conference’s top coach on 10 occasions, including three times in eight years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Bayliss’ teams have won 10 conference titles, while his players have earned All-America honors 17 times, won eight national ITA awards, and earned 15 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 11 to the NCAA doubles tournament. A member of the University of Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English while playing tennis and basketball, Bayliss began his coaching career at Navy, where he coached for 11 years. He coached at MIT for three years before coming to Notre Dame in 1988.
IRISH LAND TWO RECRUITS FOR NEXT SEASON: Bob Bayliss recently announced the signing of two incoming freshmen for the 2004-05 school year, both of whom are among the top 30 American high school seniors. Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) and Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/The Tenney School) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish tennis team. Parbhu is ranked 57th in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Boys’ 18-and-under national rankings and is 30th among high school seniors. Last season, he won the Nebraska state singles championship. Roth is 33rd in the latest USTA 18s rankings and is 19th among players who will begin college in the fall. He is the current 18-and-under champion of the Texas section of the USTA and was the No. 1 player on the Texas Junior Davis Cup team.
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 Eileen Carroll at email@example.com, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.