March 25, 2002
ANN ARBOR, Mich. & TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The seventh-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will complete an eight-match road swing with a pair of matches this week against top-40 teams. The Irish (16-4) will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on 40th-ranked Michigan Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. before making a jaunt to Terre Haute, Ind. to play #32 Indiana State at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Irish, who will return home April 6 for the first time in more than a month (since Feb. 24), have won nine of their last 10 matches.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: Notre Dame won its only contest last week, a 6-1 victory over Indiana in Bloomington on Saturday. The Irish won the doubles point and each of the bottom five singles matches to secure the victory. Senior captain Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) highlighted the win with a 6-4, 6-2 upset of 63rd-ranked Jakub Praibis at No. 2 singles, the fifth this season for Smith over a ranked opponent. The Hoosiers had defeated Notre Dame in each of the past two seasons by 4-3 scores, including giving the Irish their first loss of the season last year in a match decided in a third-set tiebreaker in the final match on-court.
IRISH vs. WOLVERINES: Michigan currently stands 9-5 after starting the season 4-0 and then undergoing a four-match losing skid. The Wolverines are ranked 40th in the nation, a season high. All five of Michigan’s losses came to teams currently ranked in the top 36 in the nation. They have just a pair of victories over teams currently ranked in th top 75 (over #35 Tulsa & #49 Wisconsin). Notre Dame and Michigan have squared off against five common opponents this season. The Wolverines have posted a 2-3 mark against those teams, with wins over Tulsa (4-3) and Wisconsin (5-2) and losses to Illinois (6-1), Northwestern (4-3) and Minnesota (7-0). The Irish are 4-2 against the teams after defeating Northwestern (5-2), Wisconsin (6-1), Illinois (4-3) and Tulsa (4-0) and losing to Minnesota (4-3) and Illinois (4-2).
Two Michigan seniors are ranked in singles. Henry Beam is 54th, while Greg Novak is 124th. Beam, ranked No. 43 in the preseason, is 15-8 in action at No. 1 singles, including a quarterfinal appearance in the Big Ten Indoor Championships and a berth in the round of 16 of the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships, in which he lost to eventual national-indoor champion and current national No. 1 Harsh Mankad of Minnesota. He is expected to face Irish senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), which will mark his fifth match this season against a player currently ranked in the national top 11. Novak is 11-13, playing at Nos. 4 and 5. His ranking is due, in large part, to his match-tiebreaker victory over Taborga in last fall’s Tom Fallon Invitational (7-5, 3-6, 1-0 [10-7]).
The Irish and Wolverines played a “hidden dual match” in the Tom Fallon with the Irish winning all three doubles matches and each of the bottom five singles matches, all in straight sets. Three Irish-Wolverines matches occurred at the Region IV Championships. Taborga defeated Ben Cox in the round of 16, Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) knocked out Novak in the second round, while Matt Lockin upset fifth-seeded Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) in the same round.
In 2001, Michigan was ranked 29th in the preseason and finished 45th after an 11-10 season. The Wolverines advanced to the NCAA tournament, but fell 4-1 in the first round to Kentucky.
Michigan and the Irish will meet for the 61st time. The Wolverines hold more victories over Notre Dame than any other opponent, leading the all-time series 40-20. Michigan was one of two foes the Irish faced in 1923, their initial year of varsity men’s tennis. The Wolverines won the match 5-0. Notre Dame has dominated the series of late, winning 11 of the 14 meetings in the Bob Bayliss era, though Michigan has won two of the last three in Ann Arbor.
A season ago, the 26th-ranked Irish shut out the Wolverines. Notre Dame swept the doubles point and won all six singles tilts to defeat No. 33 Michigan in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
IRISH vs. SYCAMORES: Indiana State enters this week ranked 32nd in the nation with an 9-8 record. The Sycamores were ranked 27th in the preseason and climbed as high as No. 20. Indiana State defeated 11th-ranked California 4-3 in the National Indoors, marking the highest-ranked win in Sycamore school history. Seven of the eight Sycamore losses came to teams currently ranked in the national top 30. Indiana State and the Irish have faced nine common opponents this season. The Sycamores are 4-6 against them with wins over Tulsa (4-3), Northwestern (4-3), William & Mary (4-1) and UAB (4-3) and losses to Mississippi (4-0 & 7-0), Pepperdine (4-1), Ohio State (5-2), Harvard (4-1) and Purdue (4-3). Notre Dame is 8-1 against those squads, losing only to Mississippi by a 4-3 score.
Junior Vedran Vidovic is the only Sycamore ranked in singles, listed at No. 56. Vidovic won his first 19 matches of the fall, downing teammate Lovre Brajkovic to win the singles title at the Region V Championships. He currently stands at 32-11, playing at Nos. 1 and 2. Vidovic gave Irish senior Javier Taborga (La -Paz, Bolivia) his first defeat of the season in a very close match 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-9), 1-0 (10-7) in last fall’s Tom Fallon Invitational.
In other notable action at the Tom Fallon, Stefan Hirn beat Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) 6-3, 7-5, Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) defeated David O’Connell 6-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10-5) and Brajkovic downed Matthew Scott (Paris, France) 1-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-6).
In 2001, Indiana State was 27-6 was ranked as high as 18th nationally and finished with a program-best ranking of No. 28. The Sycamores hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, beating Indiana before falling to Pepperdine in the second round.
Notre Dame and Indiana State will meet for the 20th time, but just the second in the last 13 seasons. The Irish lead the all-time series 15-4 and have won each of the last five and 11 of the last 12 matches. The Sycamores won the initial meeting in 1931, 6-3, but the last time Indiana State beat Notre Dame was in 1985. Bob Bayliss holds a 3-0 record agains the Sycamores, a team which the Irish faced in each of his first two seasons as head coach, but then not again until last season.
Last season, the 16th-ranked Irish rallied from a 3-1 deficit to edge visiting No. 19 Indiana State 4-3 in a match that lasted over four hours and was the fourth consecutive 4-3 decision Notre Dame was involved in. Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) won the decisive match with a 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-4 victory at No. 4. The Irish won the doubles point, but Indiana State rebounded with wins at each of the top three singles positions to move within a point of victory. Matt Daly, Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) and Talarico then notched victories to give Notre Dame the win in a match that was forced indoors due to darkness.
ROAD WARRIORS: After playing half of their first 14 matches at home, the Irish hit the road for eight consecutive matches, a stretch that will end with Saturday’s trip to Indiana State. The Irish will return home April 7 when they take on SMU at 10 a.m. and follow that up a week later, welcoming fourth-ranked Kentucky on April 13 at 10 a.m. After the brief homestand, Notre Dame goes on the road for its regular-season finale and then travels to Miami, Fla. for the BIG EAST Championships.
BOTTOM FEEDERS: Senior Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) and sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) have been consistently brilliant at the bottom of the Irish singles lineup, combining for a sparkling 27-2 (.931) dual-match record this season. Ironically, both losses came to Illinois’ Michael Calkins, who snapped Scott’s 14-match winning streak on March 7 with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win at No. 5 and then went on to end Laflin’s own 16-match unbeaten streak on March 17, 7-6, 6-1, also at No. 5. Laflin is 15-1 this season, playing mostly at No. 6. In 2001, he was 12-2 in singles. Over the past three seasons, Laflin has won 29 of his last 32 singles matches. In his career, he has posted a 24-4 (.857) mark at No. 6, including a 9-0 record this spring. Scott is 29-3 (.906) in career dual matches, including 18-1 this season. He is 5-0 at No. 4, 17-2 at No. 5 and 7-1 at No. 6 in his career.
SUPER SENIORS: Much of this spring’s success for the Irish is due to the play of its senior class. Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.), James Malhame (Douglaston, N.Y.), Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.), Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.), Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) have combined to post a majority of the Irish wins this season. They are a combined 47-17 (.734) in singles this spring, accounting for more than half of the team’s singles victories and also eight clinching wins. In doubles, every clinching victory except one this year has had at least one senior on the doubles team responsible for it. In the current lineup, four of the six singles positions and five of the six doubles slots are filled by members of the class of 2002.
FINISH WHAT YA STARTED: The top eight singles players for the Irish have been very successful when winning the first set this season. They have combined for a 117-8 (.936) record in 2001-02 when taking the opening set. Particularly successful have been Luis Haddock-Morales (19-0, 34-0 career), Andrew Laflin (13-0, 28 in a row), Matthew Scott (24-1), Javier Taborga (20-0) and Aaron Talarico (15-1).
SMU MATCH CHANGED: Notre Dame’s match with Southern Methodist, originally scheduled for Saturday, April 6 has been moved to accommodate Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) and Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) participating in Davis Cup action for their respective countries that weekend. The Irish and Mustangs will now face each other on Sunday, April 7 at 10 a.m. at the Courtney Tennis Center.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports information hotline at (219) 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 may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org.