May 4, 2005
The 32nd-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (18-7), which earned an automatic bid by winning its fifth BIG EAST title last month, will head to Urbana, Ill., for first- and second-round action in the 2005 NCAA Division I Championship, it was announced Wednesday afternoon. The Irish will take on a future conference rival, #33 Louisville (21-9), in opening-round action on Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. (CDT) at the Atkins Tennis Center. The host and No. 5 overall seed in the tournament, #5 Illinois (23-3), will take on Quinnipiac (11-6) at 10 a.m. that morning, while the winners will play on Sunday at 1 p.m.
It will be the second time Notre Dame has traveled to Illinois for the NCAAs, after doing so in 1997. That year, the 13th-ranked Irish got a bye into the regional semifinals, but then fell 4-2 to Minnesota.
Notre Dame played Illinois during the regular season, falling 6-1 on March 17 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish have not played Louisville since 1988 – head coach Bob Bayliss’ first season at Notre Dame – and have never faced the Bobcats, though both teams were first-round losers in the NCAA subregional at Harvard last season.
The site will feature three automatic qualifiers, as Illinois got in by virtue of its fourth consecutive Big Ten Conference tournament championship, and Quinnipiac claimed the Northeast Conference title. Louisville was an at-large selection.
The winner of the second-round contest will advance to College Station, Texas, for the final four rounds of competition, slated for May 21-24 at Texas A&M University’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center, which was the site the last time Notre Dame reached the final 16 in the NCAAs, in 2002. In the round of 16, the Urbana site’s victor will face the winner of the subregional hosted by the No. 12 seed, #11 Kentucky, which also features Butler, #18 Florida State, and #75 Ball State.
Louisville, the No. 3 seed, beat TCU 4-2 in the semifinals of the Conference-USA tournament, but then fell 4-1 to Tulane in the title match. Illinois won the regular-season league title with a 10-0 record and then claimed the Big Ten’s automatic bid by downing Ohio State 4-2 in the tournament final, the Illini’s ninth consecutive victory. Quinnipiac won its second straight NEC title with a 4-1 win against Mount St. Mary’s in the tournament championship.
The Irish and Cardinals will meet for the fifth time, but the teams are also slated to begin a regular-season series next season when Louisville becomes a member of the BIG EAST Conference. Notre Dame won all of the previous matches easily, prevailing 9-0 in 1957 and ’58, 8-1 in ’63, and 6-0 in ’88 at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.
The Irish and Illini are familiar foes, having played at least once in each of the last 17 seasons and 37 times overall. Notre Dame holds a 20-16 advantage, but Illinois has won 10 of the last 11 matches, including each of the last five. The schools have met once in the NCAAs, in the ’02 round of 16, with Illinois prevailing 4-1.
Five singles players and two doubles teams listed in the national rankings will be at the Urbana subregional: #8 Ryler Deheart, #23 GD Jones, and #51 Kevin Anderson of Illinois, #76 Damar Johnson of Louisville, #115 Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) of Notre Dame, #10 Deheart/Jones of Illinois, and #44 Jakob Gustafsson/Jeremy Clark of Louisville.
Of the 23 teams on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule, 13 of them earned berths in the NCAA Championship: Virginia (No. 2 overall seed), Illinois (No. 5), Duke (No. 9), Ball State, Boise State, Florida State, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rice, SMU, Texas, and William & Mary. The Irish went 6-7 against those teams.
The Irish have been invited to 14 of the last 15 NCAA tournaments, making them one of just 12 schools to have accomplished that feat, along with Duke, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Pepperdine, Stanford, Texas, TCU, UCLA, and USC. Bayliss is one of only three Division I coaches – along with Georgia’s Manuel Diaz and Duke’s Jay Lapidus – to have led his current team to at least 14 NCAA bids in the last 15 years. Notre Dame has reached the round of 16 in the NCAAs on five occasions, highlighted by a 1993 quarterfinal result and a runner-up finish in `92. Last year, the Irish lost 4-0 to Tulane in the first round after missing the tournament in ’03.
For the sixth consecutive year, the NCAA Championship features a field of 64 teams, consisting of 31 automatic-qualifying conference champions and 33 at-large selections. The first two rounds will take place May 13-15 at 16 campus sites.
The draws for the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships will be released Thursday on www.ncaasports.com. They will take place May 25-30 in College Station, with 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams competing. Notre Dame competitors have garnered 18 invitations to the national singles tournament and 11 to the doubles event, with all but two singles entries coming since 1990.
There will be televised coverage of the NCAA Championships, as ESPN2 will broadcast the team title match on a tape-delayed basis, airing on Tuesday, May 31 at 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. in South Bend). Additionally, the Tennis Channel will show the singles final on Sunday, June 5 at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. in South Bend) and the doubles final that same night at 10 p.m. EDT (9 p.m. in South Bend).