March 22, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team had opportunities to pull off an upset, but did not convert, eventually dropping a 6-1 decision to No. 12 Minnesota on Saturday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Golden Gophers (10-3) got a service break with the Irish serving for the doubles point and then won a tiebreaker to take a 1-0 lead. Minnesota then won the bottom five singles matches, though a pair took more than two sets to decide. Notre Dame (5-9) will return to action Sunday afternoon, playing host to BIG EAST leader Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. (EST).
Notre Dame appeared to be on the verge of a comeback after falling behind 3-0. At that point, the Irish were up one set at No. 6 singles, while the Nos. 1 and 5 matches were already in third sets, and the No. 2 contest was in a second-set tiebreaker. But the Gophers came through when they needed to, with Aleksey Zharinov shutting the door on Irish hopes by winning three straight points to win the tiebreaker, and the match, a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) triumph over sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) at No. 2. Minnesota then won the next two matches off the court before surrendering the final point.
The Irish faced an additional hurdle, losing the services of junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) for the singles portion of the match after he became ill following his doubles contest. Without Scott to fill his usual No. 2 position, head coach Bob Bayliss was forced to shift each of the players below him up one position, forcing a number of competitors into positions they had played little, if at all, this season.
Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) was the only Notre Dame player to have much success on Saturday. Haddock teamed with senior tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) for an 8-3 win at No. 2 doubles, the fifth straight victory for the pair. In singles, Haddock was the lone Irish victor, avoiding a second consecutive shutout for Notre Dame with an upset victory over #63 Thomas Haug at No. 1 singles in the last match remaining on the court. Haug retired due to a knee injury with the match tied 3-3 in the third set, after the Gopher won the opening frame 6-1 and Haddock won the second set 6-2. The win was the first in more than a month for the Irish junior, snapping a five-match losing streak. It was the fifth for Haddock this season over a ranked player.
Notre Dame was poised to take the doubles point before the Gophers rallied. After the teams split the other two matches, the No. 1 contest was the last remaining on the court. With the match tied 7-7, Scott and D’Amico finally converted on their third break point of the game to break the serve of Minnesota’s Manuel Lievano. In attempting to serve out the victory, D’Amico and Scott took a 30-0 lead to move within two points of giving the Irish the doubles point, but Lievano and Haug ran off four straight points to break the Notre Dame team for the third time, forcing a tiebreaker to determine the match. After the teams split the first two points of the breaker, Lievano and Haug won six of the next seven to clinch a 9-8 (7-2) win and give Minnesota a 1-0 lead in the match.
Farrell and Haddock were the first winners in doubles before Zharinov and Chris Wettengel delivered an 8-5 victory at No. 3 to set up the heroics by Haug and Lievano.
Wettengel, ranked 105th nationally in singles, was the first off the court in singles, turning in a 6-3, 6-3 win over Farrell, who was playing at No. 3 for just the second time in his career. Lievano put his team within a point of victory with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Irish junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista), playing No. 4 for the first time this season.
After Zharinov clinched the Gopher win, a pair of his teammates rallied from one-set deficits to defeat Irish first-year players. Avery Ticer claimed a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 5 over Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.), while Eric Robertson won 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-2) against Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.).
Notre Dame fell to 1-6 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion this season after posting a 10-0 mark in the building a year ago.
The defending BIG EAST champion Irish will now move into conference play for their only two league matches of the regular season, facing #48 Virginia Tech on Sunday before heading to #22 Miami a week later (March 30). The Hokies, who finished third in the conference tournament a year ago, are 2-0 this season in BIG EAST action, including a 5-2 win at Miami. Head-to-head results of teams, as well as Intercollegiate Tennis Association national rankings, are the main factors in determining the participants and seeding of the six qualifiers in the BIG EAST Championship, scheduled for April 25-27 in Coral Gables, Fla.
#12 Minnesota 6, #58 Notre Dame 1
No. 1: Luis Haddock (ND) d. #63 Thomas Haug (M) 1-6, 6-2, 3-3, ret.
No. 2: *#56 Aleksey Zharinov (M) d. Brent D’Amico (ND) 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
No. 3: #105 Chris Wettengel (M) d. Brian Farrell (ND) 6-3, 6-3
No. 4: Manuel Lievano (M) d. Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (ND) 6-4, 6-3
No. 5: Avery Ticer (M) d. Patrick Buchanan (ND) 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
No. 6: Eric Robertson (M) d. Eric Langenkamp (ND) 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-2)
Order of Finish: 3, 4, 2*, 5, 6, 1
No. 1: *Haug/Lievano (M) d. D’Amico/Matthew Scott (ND) 9-8 (7-2)
No. 2: Farrell/Haddock (ND) d. Robertson/Ticer (M) 8-3
No. 3: Wettengel/Zharinov (M) d. Hatten/McNaughton (ND) 8-5
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1*