March 28, 2003
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The defending conference champion University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (6-9, 1-0) will try to leave no doubt as to who deserves the No. 1 seed at next month’s BIG EAST Championship when the Irish take on #25 Miami (11-5, 0-1) Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. Notre Dame, ranked 53rd in this week’s national rankings, beat #42 Virginia Tech, who finished third in the league a year ago, 5-2 last weekend after the Hokies topped Miami by the same score in Coral Gables earlier this spring. A win over the Hurricanes, in what will be a rematch of each of the last seven BIG EAST title matches, would virtually guarantee the Irish the top seed for the seventh time in eight years in the conference tournament.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame split a pair of home matches last weekend. The Irish lost 6-1 to #12 Minnesota on Saturday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame was two points from winning the doubles point, serving at 8-7 at No. 1, before Minnesota forced, and won, a tiebreaker to take a 1-0 lead. In singles, three matches went to third sets, but the Golden Gophers ended up winning each of the bottom five contests. The lone Irish point came from junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) at No. 1, a victory over #63 Thomas Haug at No. 1 when the Gopher retired at 3-3 in the third set.
Notre Dame rebounded Sunday with a 5-2 win over #42 Virginia Tech in its BIG EAST opener. The doubles point came down to the No. 2 match, in which Haddock and senior tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) won 8-6 to give the Irish the lead. Four matches in singles went to three sets and the Irish won three of them, getting wins from Haddock at No. 1, Farrell at No. 3, and freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) at No. 5.
Notre Dame faced an additional hurdle, when junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris), who normally plays No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, became ill after his doubles match on Saturday, forcing him to miss the singles portion of that match and all of Sunday’s contest. Scott is expected to return this weekend vs. Miami.
IRISH vs. HURRICANES: Miami enters this weekend with an 11-5 (0-1 BIG EAST) record and No. 25 national ranking. The Hurricanes have won five in a row and had their match with Tennessee rained out on Sunday. Miami’s losses have come to No. 1 Illinois, No. 2 Florida, No. 14 Georgia Tech, No. 23 Indiana, and Virginia Tech. The best wins for the ‘Canes this season were a 4-3 victory over No. 10 Texas A&M and a 5-2 triumph vs. No. 30 Clemson. The Hurricanes were 42nd in the preseason and peaked at No. 22 last week.
Sophomore Todd Widom, who has been ranked as high as ninth this season, is currently No. 14 in the national singles rankings. He is 20-6 overall this season, including 12-3 this spring and 10-3 at No. 1. Widom advanced to the semifinals of last fall’s National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships by defeating #11 David Martin of Stanford and #1 Jesse Witten of Kentucky before falling to #6 Amer Delic of Illinois. In doubles, senior Andrew Golub and freshman Colin Purcell are ranked 56th. The pair is 12-4 this spring, including a win over the nation’s fifth-ranked team, Delic and Michael Calkins of Illinois.
Miami and the Irish have played five common opponents this season: Indiana, Illinois, Florida State, Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech. Both teams are 2-3 against them, though the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles and lost to the Hokies, while Notre Dame beat Virginia Tech and lost to Florida State.
A year ago, the Hurricanes were 12-10 and runners-up in the BIG EAST Championship, losing the title match 4-1 to the Irish. Listed 18th in the preseason, Miami gained an at-large berth to the NCAA Championship, but lost 4-1 to South Florida in the first round to finish 41st. Bryan Getz is in his first season as Miami’s head coach after serving as an assistant for two years.
Notre Dame and Miami will meet for the 14th time since 1996 and the 18th time overall. The Irish hold a 7-6 advantage in the BIG EAST era, but the Hurricanes have a 10-7 edge in the all-time series. Since Notre Dame joined the conference in ’96, the Irish and Miami have met in the final of the BIG EAST Championship every year. In addition, the teams have met in the regular season in each year except ’97. Notre Dame has won four of six previous regular-season matches, while the Hurricanes have won four of seven league title matchups. In each of the last four seasons, the team taking the regular-season meeting also went on to win the BIG EAST title. The teams first met in 1964, with Miami winning 7-2. The Hurricanes took each of the first four matches in the pre-BIG EAST phase of the series. In Miami, the ‘Canes have a 5-4 advantage since ’96, but the teams have split two regular-season matches. Miami is the only BIG EAST team to have defeated Notre Dame since the Irish joined the conference. Sunday’s match is the first time ever that Miami enters a contest holding a higher national ranking than the Irish.
In 2002, the Irish snapped a four-match losing streak to the Hurricanes by winning a pair of meetings. On Feb. 24, No. 7 Notre Dame gained a 6-1 win over 35th-ranked Miami in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish swept the doubles matches and won five of six in singles, though three matches went to third sets. At No. 1, #23 Javier Taborga outlasted #18 Todd Widom 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, while Casey Smith beat Tomas Smid in three sets at No. 2. Tarik El Bassiouni accounted for the lone Miami point, winning in three sets at No. 5 against Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.). The Irish claimed their third BIG EAST title on April 21 with a 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes in Coral Gables, Fla. Notre Dame took the first two doubles matches off the court and then won three of four completed singles contests to gain the win. Widom, ranked 23rd, knocked off #14 Taborga 6-2, 7-5 at No. 1 for the lone Miami point. The Irish got wins at Nos. 2, 5, and 6, while the Nos. 3 and 4 matches were abandoned in third sets.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame stands 53rd among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in this week’s Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, the second set to be based on the point-per-match computer formula, as opposed to coaches’ voting, which determined all the previous sets of rankings this season. The Irish have been listed in every set of national rankings since head coach Bob Bayliss, in just his third year at the school, guided Notre Dame to its first-ever national ranking midway through the 1990 season, meaning the Irish have been constantly ranked for over 13 consecutive seasons, in more than 200 straight sets of rankings.
Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) crept back into the national singles rankings at No. 122 after being absent in the previous rankings. A new set of individual rankings will be released April 9.
BIG EAST’S BEST: Though teams are not required to play a set schedule of league matches, berths and seeding in the six-team field at the BIG EAST Championship (held April 25-27 in Coral Gables, Fla.) are decided by head-to-head results and national rankings. The top three finishers from last year’s tournament each hold national rankings, placing them in position to gain the top three seeds in this year’s championship. Defending champion Notre Dame is 53rd, while ’02 runner-up Miami is 25th, and last year’s third-place finisher, Virginia Tech, is 42nd. The Irish and Hurricanes each play the other two schools as their only BIG EAST regular-season matches, while the Hokies also took on West Virginia. So far, Virginia Tech beat the Mountaineers and the Hurricanes (5-2 in Coral Gables), but lost to Notre Dame (5-2 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion).
Therefore, a win by the Irish this weekend would most likely clinch them the top seed in the league tournament, while Virginia Tech would be second and Miami third. A Hurricane victory would leave all three teams with one loss, meaning the seeding would probably follow the national rankings. The top two seeds get byes into the semifinals.
Among the rest of the 10 conference schools that play men’s tennis, Rutgers (4th in ’02) and Villanova are each 1-0, while West Virginia (5th in ’02) is 0-1, Georgetown is 0-2, and Boston College (6th in ’02), Connecticut and St. John’s have not yet played a league match. B.C. and Georgetown play on Saturday, while Rutgers and UConn play Sunday.
DO THEY ALL HAVE TO BE THIS CLOSE?: The Irish have had a penchant for playing matches with outcomes undecided until late in the affair. Six of 15 matches this spring have been decided by 4-3 scores (after just eight 4-3 matches in 30 contests a year ago), with five of those tilts being decided by the last singles match on-court. In addition, the Irish lost 4-2 to Duke with the abandoned match in a third set and beat Virginia Tech 5-2 in a contest featuring four three-set affairs.
Notre Dame is 2-4 in one-point matches in ’03, but the Irish have lost four of five contests that have come down to a final singles match with the teams knotted at 3-3, including a pair decided in third-set tiebreakers. Zach Held pulled out a three-setter against Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) to lead Indiana over the Irish in the season opener. At No. 1, Mat Cloer finished a close straight-set decision over Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) to help Florida State edge Notre Dame. Two consecutive February matches not only come down to the last match on-court, but were decided by a third-set tiebreaker in that contest. Haddock topped Andy Formanczyk 7-2 in the breaker at No. 1 in Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State, but Adam Schaechterle edged Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) 7-3 in the deciding tiebreaker to help Northwestern over the Irish just three days later. Both of those deciding matches also featured tiebreakers prior to the final set. Finally, Tulsa’s Dustin Taylor rallied from a 5-2 third-set deficit for a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) win over Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) in the first round of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic.
SECOND TO NONE: Notre Dame’s No. 2 doubles team of tri-captains Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) and Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) has been outstanding of late, winning six straight matches, while having one abandoned with a 6-5 lead. After losing two of three matches together early in the season, head coach Bob Bayliss paired Haddock and Farrell together again on Feb. 19. On that day, they dropped a 9-7 decision to Michigan State, but the pair has not lost since then. Highlighting the streak were three clinching victories, including winning the last match on-court to give Notre Dame the doubles point vs. Northwestern and Virginia Tech. The pair was 5-0 at home.
STEPPING UP: Two Irish players stepped up in the lineup and delivered victories vs. Virginia Tech last weekend. Due to the absence of junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) sitting out the singles portion of the Minnesota match and all of Sunday’s contest, sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) played No. 2 singles for the first time in his career and tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) played No. 3 for just the second time. Farrell broke a five-match losing streak in three-setters, winning one for the first time in nearly two years (since Feb. 24, 2001 vs. Ryan Edlefsen of Northwestern), defeating #64 Saber Kadiri 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, which marked the Irish senior’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent. D’Amico beat Andreas Laulund 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2. A year ago, he played singles in only four dual matches, going 1-3 at No. 6. This season he is 8-4 at No. 3 and 1-1 at No. 2. Scott, who normally plays No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, has won six of his last eight in singles.
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 Chris Masters at Masters.email@example.com, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.