March 21, 2002
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The seventh-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will try to get back on the winning track Saturday when it faces Indiana at 1:00 p.m. at the Varsity Tennis Courts. The Irish had an eight-match winning streak broken on Sunday when they dropped a 4-2 decision to now-#2 Illinois in the final of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic. Notre Dame continues a stretch of eight consecutive matches to be played away from home.
BLUE-GRAY NATIONAL CLASSIC RECAP: For the fourth time in the past six seasons, the Irish advanced to the final of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic. The Irish failed to defend their 2001 championship, though, falling to eighth-ranked Illinois 4-2 in Sunday’s championship. Senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) was 4-0 at No. 1 singles, earning tournament most-valuable-player honors and extending his winning streak to 11 consecutive matches.
The top-seeded Irish shut out 44th-ranked Tulsa 4-0 in opening-round action. Playing outdoors for the first time this season, Notre Dame won the doubles point (the only time the Irish captured it throughout the weekend) and gained victories from Taborga and classmates Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) to secure the win.
In a quarterfinal match, Notre Dame defeated Alabama-Birmingham 4-1. The Blazers were 23rd in the preseason rankings, but had since fallen out of the rankings (only to return at No. 46 in this week’s listing). UAB won the doubles point, but the Irish won the first four singles matches off the court to advance. Taborga, Talarico and sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) won in straight sets before Matthew Scott (Paris, France) clinched the match with a three-set victory.
Harvard jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Irish, but Notre Dame rallied for a 4-3 semifinal victory. The Crimson, ranked 44th at the time, moved up to 24th in this week’s national rankings. Harvard won the doubles point in a tiebreaker at No. 3. Laflin won at No. 6, but the Crimson gained victories at Nos. 2 and 3 to move within one point of the upset. But Scott and Haddock-Morales registered wins for the Irish to tie the match before Taborga pulled out a three-set victory to send Notre Dame to the championship match for the fifth time in 13 years participating in the Blue-Gray Classic.
Illinois, ranked eighth at the time, captured the 2002 Blue-Gray National Classic title with a 4-2 win over the Irish, avenging a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of Notre Dame 10 days earlier. On Sunday, the Irish were without the services of Talarico, who was hospitalized after suffering dehydration and heat exhaustion in Saturday’s match. The Illini won the doubles point and three of the five completed singles matches to gain the win. Illinois led 3-2 with the final two matches in third sets before getting a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory from No. 67 Nathan Zeder at No. 6 to secure the victory. The highlight for the Irish was Taborga knocking off ninth-ranked Amer Delic for the second time in 11 days at No. 1.
Notre Dame has had much success in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic, participating in each of the last 13 tournaments. The Irish captured two titles (1993 & 2001) and reached the final on three other occasions (1997, 1998 & 2002). Notre Dame has an overall record of 28-13 (.683) in Montgomery, including a 16-6 (.727) mark over the past six years. The Irish fell to 8-8 all-time on St. Patrick’s Day with Sunday’s defeat.
IRISH vs. HOOSIERS: After starting the season 5-1, the Hoosiers enter this weekend with a 6-6 mark, having lost three straight and having registered just one victory since February 2. Indiana, which has five freshman among its top eight players, was 46th in the preseason rankings, but has dropped since then until not appearing in the national top 75 this week. Each of the Hoosiers’ wins were against teams not currently ranked, while four of their losses came at the hands of teams currently in the national top 40, including a 6-1 loss to No. 4 Kentucky last weekend. The only common opponent Notre Dame and Indiana have both faced is Northwestern. The Irish downed the Wildcats 5-2 earlier this season, while the Hoosiers lost to Northwestern by the same score.
Two Indiana players are ranked in singles. Freshman Jakub Praibis is 63rd, while senior Milan Rakvica is 109th. Praibis is 11-1 and has won nine consecutive matches, playing at Nos. 2 and 3. Rakvica is 13-10, playing at No. 1, including a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Irish junior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) in the second round of last fall’s Omni Hotels Region IV Championships. Rakvica was listed 32nd in the preseason singles rankings.
Also in the Region IV championships, Taborga and Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) defeated Tom Bagnato and Jon Magnes 8-1 in second-round doubles play.
In 2001, Indiana was ranked 27th in the preseason, moved as high as 24th in the nation before finishing 14-9 and 47th nationally. The Hoosiers qualified for the NCAA tournament for the third straight season, losing to Indiana State 4-1 in the first round.
The Hoosiers and the Irish will meet for the 63rd time. Indiana is the third-most common opponent of Notre Dame in the 80-year history of the program. The Irish have faced Michigan State and Northwestern 70 times apiece. The Hoosiers were Notre Dame’s opponent in the first-ever varsity men’s tennis match in 1923 — a 6-0 Indiana win even though the Hoosier program would not attain varsity status until 1930. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 36-26, including wins in nine of 13 matches in the Bob Bayliss era. After the Irish won eight consecutive matches, Indiana has defeated Notre Dame each of the past two seasons, both by 4-3 scores.
A season ago, the Hoosiers defeated the 33rd-ranked Irish in Indiana’s season opener, giving the Irish their first loss of the season. The Hoosiers won the doubles point, triumphing in tiebreakers at Nos. 1 and 3. The teams split the six singles matches with four of them being decided in three sets. With the match tied 3-3, Zach Held defeated Matthew Scott (Paris, France) 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) at No. 5 to claim the win for the 27th-ranked Hoosiers.
REMARKABLE RANKINGS: The Irish have had a number of notable rankings this season in both the team and individual Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings. On March 13, Notre Dame was ranked fourth in the team rankings — the second-highest ranking in school history. The only time the Irish were ranked higher was in the final poll of the 1992 season, when Notre Dame was No. 3 after losing in the NCAA final. The Irish, currently seventh in the first set of rankings determined by the computer, have been ranked in the national top 10 in each poll this season. Notre Dame has never been in the top 10 in each set of rankings throughout a season.
Senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) moved up to 11th in this week’s national singles rankings, marking the highest ranking by an Irish singles player since Ryan Sachire finished the 2000 season ranked 11th. He is just the third player in school history to be ranked as high as No. 11 nationally in singles. Sachire was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally and David DiLucia (’92) is the only Notre Dame player to be ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles. Also ranked in singles for the Irish is sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France), who is 64th.
Taborga and classmate Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) remained No. 5 in the doubles rankings, which is the highest ranking for a doubles team since 1997 when Brian Patterson and Jakub Pietrowski were ranked fifth in the fall rankings.
TREMENDOUS TABORGA: After never playing higher than No. 2 singles prior to this season, senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) has turned into one of the top singles players in the nation in 2002. He has won 11 straight matches and has posted a 15-1 record at No. 1. He is 24-7 overall, including seven wins over players currently ranked in the top 30 in the nation. Taborga is 17-2 this spring and overall has registered a total of 11 wins over players currently ranked. Highlights of his play include wins over defending NCAA singles and doubles champion Matias Boeker of Georgia (No. 1 in preseason singles rankings), #9 Amer Delic of Illinois (twice in 11 days), #12 Todd Widom of Miami, #24 Danny Westerman of Wisconsin, #25 Alex Hartman of Mississippi, #29 Jeremy Wurtzman of Ohio State, and #58 Michael Yani. Taborga has won 21 of his last 24 matches. All three of his losses in that span were to ranked players (#1 Harsh Mankad of Minnesota, #3 Al Garland of Pepperdine and #83 Aleksey Zharinov of Minnesota). He was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Blue-Gray National Classic after winning all four of his matches, including an upset of ninth-ranked Delic and a win over Harvard’s David Lingman in the last match on-court to earn the Irish a spot in the championship match. At last year’s ITA All-American Championships, Taborga defeated Stanford’s K.J. Hippensteel, currently ranked fourth in the nation, denying Hippensteel of the title he won in both 1999 and 2001. All of Taborga’s seven losses were to players currently ranked in the top 125 and three were decided in match tiebreakers. He advanced to the quarterfinals in last fall’s Region IV Championships before falling to Mankad, the current No. 1 player in the nation. Taborga is 20-0 when winning the first set this season. In 2001, he was 23-12 playing No. 2 singles and was 5-3 against ranked players.
SINGLES SUPERPOWER: The Irish have had much success in singles action this season, including extraordinary results turned in by four players. Seniors Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) and Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) and sophomores Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) and Matthew Scott (Paris, France) have combined for a 55-8 (.873) mark this spring in singles. The group has also combined for 15 wins over ranked opponents.
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.email@example.com.