April 27, 2003
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (10-12) pulled off an upset Sunday morning to move into the final of the BIG EAST Championship for the eighth consecutive season against Miami. But when rain showers and thunderstorms hit the south Florida area for the second consecutive day, the Irish and Hurricanes were forced to walk off the court and were denied the opportunity to wait out the weather due to conference policies. In the highlight of the day, the Irish, seeded third and ranked 54th, pulled out a thrilling 4-3 victory over the No. 2 seed, #41 Virginia Tech, in a morning semifinal match that lasted nearly five hours.
Notre Dame and Miami, playing singles first due to court restrictions and weather concerns, had been on the courts for just under an hour when the rain began coming down. The match was officially cancelled soon thereafter. The Irish were up a set in a pair of matches and down a set in two, with the two remaining contests on-serve in the opening frame.
BIG EAST rules dictate that in the event of the championship not being completed on time, the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament shall be awarded to the highest-remaining seed, meaning the Hurricanes, who were the top seed despite playing without two of their starters, are now assured of a spot in the NCAAs, set to begin at campus sites on May 10. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will now have to wait until Wednesday to see if it earns one of the 33 at-large berths into the NCAA tournament. The chances of that figure to be slim, as the Irish are currently ranked 54th with their best wins over #41 Virginia Tech (twice) and #46 Purdue. Notre Dame is looking to extend its streak of 12 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Championship, the best of any sport at the university.
Urged on by a large contingent of Irish faithful, Notre Dame lasted four hours and 48 minutes in gaining a spot in the championship match. After the Irish and Virginia Tech split the six singles matches, the contest was determined by the doubles point. Junior Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) clinched the win with an 8-6 victory at No. 1 doubles. D’Amico and Scott won for the fifth time in the last six matches to improve to 12-9 at No. 1 doubles. The victory also marked the fifth clinching win of the season for the Irish pair.
Their victory followed a win from senior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) and junior Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), who came back from down an early service break to defeat Angel Diankov and Dennis Emery 8-4 at No. 2.
The Irish appeared on their way to a sweep, with junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) and sophomore Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) just two points from victory, leading 7-6. The Notre Dame team was broken in its first service game of the match, but eventually rallied to take command.
Notre Dame won for just the second time in six matches this spring when the score was tied 3-3 with a final point remaining. It was the second time in `03 the Irish were playing doubles with the match hanging in the balance after splitting the singles contests. SMU prevailed in partnered play for a 4-3 win on April 6 in the same situation.
After a nearly 21-hour delay due to rain, the Hokies and Irish finally took the courts for singles at 8:50 a.m. (EDT). Virginia Tech’s Stephane Rod was off the court first, with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Farrell at No. 4. The Irish tied the match when D’Amico pulled off a 6-2, 6-4 upset of #88 Saber Kadiri at No. 3. The Notre Dame sophomore improved to 17-12 this season, including 12-8 in dual matches, in gaining his fourth victory over a ranked opponent.
Virginia Tech took a 2-1 lead when Andreas Laulund, ranked 77th, topped Scott 6-4, 7-5 at No. 2, but the Irish tied the match with a victory from 106th-ranked Haddock at No. 1. The Irish junior beat Francis Huot 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 to complete a singles match for the first time in six career tries at the BIG EAST Championship. Haddock has won six of his last eight matches.
Lopez-Acevedo put the Irish within a point of victory by rallying to defeat Michael Kurz 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 5. Notre Dame had a chance to finish the victory in singles play, but Angel Diankov came back for a 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win over Irish freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) at No. 6.
Against Miami, Notre Dame’s depth was paying dividends as the Irish were up a set at the bottom two positions. Lopez-Acevedo took the first set 6-1 against Zac Hood and was on-serve in the second set, 1-2, appearing to be on his way to a sixth victory in seven matches. Buchanan was up 6-1, 1-0 against Chris Erikson at No. 6 when the rain set in.
Miami had a set advantage at Nos. 1 and 4 singles. Todd Widom won the first set 6-0 at the top spot, but Haddock took the first game of the second set before the match was stopped. Freshman Colin Purcell beat Farrell 6-2 in the first set and was just beginning the second set.
The other two matches were on-serve in the opening frame. Andrew Golub was up 5-4 on Scott at No. 2, while D’Amico and Luis Manrique were tied 5-5.
Notre Dame earned its fourth championship since joining the BIG EAST in 1995, following up titles in ’96, ’99, and 2002. The Irish were looking to become the first-ever No. 3 seed to win the tournament outright.
#54 Notre Dame 4, #41 Virginia Tech 3
BIG EAST Championship Semifinals
No. 1: #106 Luis Haddock (ND) d. Francis Huot (VT) 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
No. 2: #77 Andreas Laulund (VT) d. Matthew Scott (ND) 6-4, 7-5
No. 3: Brent D’Amico (ND) d. #88 Saber Kadiri (VT) 6-2, 6-4
No. 4: Stephane Rod (VT) d. Brian Farrell (ND) 6-4, 6-3
No. 5: Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (ND) d. Michael Kurz (VT) 2-6, 6-3, 6-1
No. 6: Angel Diankov (VT) d. Patrick Buchanan (ND) 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
No. 1: D’Amico/Scott (ND) d. Laulund/Rod (VT) 8-6
No. 2: Farrell/Haddock (ND) d. Diankov/Dennis Emery (VT) 8-4
No. 3: Lopez-Acevedo/Paul McNaughton (ND) vs. Huot/Kurz (VT) 7-6, abandoned
— ND —