April 23, 2003
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (8-12) will look to defend its title this weekend at the BIG EAST Championship at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Miami. The 54th-ranked Irish are seeded third for the first time, behind #29 Miami and #41 Virginia Tech. Notre Dame, which beat the Hokies 5-2 and lost to the Hurricanes 6-1 in its only league action this spring, will open play on Friday in the first round vs. No. 6 seed St. John’s at Noon (EDT). Since joining the conference in 1996, the Irish have faced Miami in the championship match every season, winning titles in 1996, 1999, and 2002.
HOTLINE TO FEATURE IN-MATCH UPDATES: Fans can keep up with the action at the 2003 BIG EAST Tennis Championships via the Notre Dame Sports Hotline, which will be updated every 15-30 minutes during Irish matches. Semi-live reports can be accessed by dialing (574) 631-3000 and selecting option #8 for tennis. In addition, the official athletic website of the University of Notre Dame, www.und.com, will feature recaps of all the Irish action at the end of each day.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: The Irish split a pair of matches to finish the regular season. On Sunday, April 13, Notre Dame fell 5-2 on the road to No. 12 Kentucky. The doubles point came down to the No. 3 match, where Evan Austin and Alex Hume finished off an 8-6 win over junior Ben Hatten (Potomac, Md./Winston Churchill H.S.) and sophomore Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.). The Wildcats then won each of the top four singles contests to complete the win. Junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) was the only Irish player to win in straight sets, gaining a victory at No. 5. Freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) then came through with a three-set win at No. 6.
Notre Dame finished its home slate with a 5-2 victory over #69 Indiana State on Tuesday, April 15. The doubles point was decided by the No. 3 match, where Lopez-Acevedo and McNaughton endured a roller coaster ride before holding on for a 9-8 (10-8) triumph over Ionut Hurduc and Dmytro Ishtuganov. The Irish then won four of six singles matches to win in the lone match of the season at the Courtney Tennis Center. After Buchanan and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) won in straight sets, juniors Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) and Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) delivered three-set victories.
IRISH IN THE BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP: Notre Dame was named the No. 3 seed in the 2003 BIG EAST Championship, which will take place Friday through Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex in Coral Gables, Fla. For the third straight year, the format of the event will be a single-elimination tournament of the top six teams in the league, as selected by the conference, with the top two seeds gaining first-round byes. The winner receives the BIG EAST’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship, which begins at campus sights on May 10. This year’s seeding marks the lowest for the Irish in eight years of BIG EAST play. Notre Dame has earned the No. 1 seed six times and was seeded second in 2000. The Irish have advanced to the final in each of the past seven years to face Miami, winning titles in 1996, 1999, and 2002.
Play gets underway Friday morning with fourth-seeded Rutgers and the fifth seed, Boston College, playing at 9:00 a.m. In the other quarterfinal matchup, the Irish will take on No. 6 seed St. John’s at Noon. The semifinals are set for Saturday with top-seeded Miami taking on the Rutgers-B.C. winner at 9:00 a.m. and second-seeded Virginia Tech facing the Notre Dame-St. John’s victor at Noon. Friday’s losing teams will play at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday in consolation action. The championship and third-place matches are both slated for Sunday at 9:00 a.m.
A season ago, the Irish defeated Rutgers 4-0 in the semifinals before topping Miami 4-1 for their third league title. In the final, Notre Dame won the doubles point and three of the first four singles matches off the court. The Irish got wins at Nos. 2, 5, and 6 singles, with Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) clinching the conference crown with his 6-4, 6-2 victory over Joel Berman at No. 5. The lone Hurricane point came from the 2003 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Player Todd Widom, who was victorious in straight sets at No. 1. Both abandoned matches were in third sets. Irish head coach Bob Bayliss was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the third time in five years.
Four Notre Dame players have past experience playing in the BIG EAST Championship, compiling a combined 7-2 record. Most notably, Scott and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) each have posted perfect records in league tournament play. Scott is 2-0 in both singles and doubles, while D’Amico was 1-0 (one abandoned match) in doubles and won his lone singles contest in last year’s championship. Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) has the distinction of having never finished a singles match in the BIG EAST tournament, having his affair abandoned on four occasions. Haddock is 1-1 in doubles, with two matches unfinished. Senior tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) also has experience in the BIG EAST Championship, losing once in singles and having a match abandoned in 2001.
Haddock is a candidate for the 2003 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Player award. Ranked 106th in the most recent national listing, the Irish junior is 20-14 this season, including seven victories over ranked opponents. Haddock outlasted Virginia Tech’s Francis Huot 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1 singles earlier this spring and is the fourth-highest-ranked player in the conference, behind Miami’s Widom (20th) and Tech’s Andreas Laulund (77th) and Saber Kadiri (88th). Three-time All-American Ryan Sachire (’00) is the only Irish player to win the award, capturing it in 1999 and 2000.
Much success has come for Notre Dame against BIG EAST schools over the years. The Irish are 32-14 all-time against current members of the conference. The majority of Notre Dame defeats have come at the hands of Miami, which has won 11 of 18 contests, giving the Irish a sparkling 25-3 record against the rest of the league. Only Georgetown, Virginia Tech and West Virginia have defeated Notre Dame. In the Bayliss era, Notre Dame is 7-7 against Miami and 18-1 vs. the rest of the conference. In tournament play, the Irish have a 15-4 record and have registered shutout victories in all 12 non-championship matches (second round and semifinals) since joining the conference.
Regarding teams in this year’s field, Notre Dame beat Virginia Tech 5-2 earlier this spring after dropping the only previous meeting with the Hokies, 7-2 in 1977. The Hurricanes beat the Irish 6-1 last month to improve to 11-7 in the series. Notre Dame has won all five meetings against Rutgers, defeating the Scarlet Knights in the semifinals of the conference tournament in 1996, ’97, ’99, 2001, and ’02. The Irish are 3-0 against Boston College and beat St. John’s in the semifinals of the 2000 championship in the only meeting between the schools.
Prior to joining the BIG EAST, Notre Dame competed in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in men’s tennis from 1989-95. The Irish won seven consecutive league titles and Bayliss was honored four times as the conference’s top coach. In MCC and BIG EAST play combined, the Irish have won 10 conference championships in the past 14 years.
2003 BIG EAST CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: The top-seeded Hurricanes were listed 42nd in the preseason, peaked at No. 22 and are currently 29th after a 12-7 (1-1 BE) regular season. Miami beat Notre Dame 6-1 on March 30 at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex. The Hurricanes’ best win of the season was a 4-3 triumph over #11 Texas A&M in February, though the Aggies were without their top two players for the match. The Irish and ‘Canes have faced six common opponents — Indiana, Illinois, Florida State, Wisconsin, Duke, and Virginia Tech — with both teams going 2-4 against them, though Notre Dame beat the Hokies 5-2 and lost to the Seminoles 4-3, while Miami topped FSU 5-2, but fell by the same score to VT. The Hurricanes have hosted the BIG EAST Championship every year since 1993 and have six titles in that span, losing only in the final to the Irish in 1996, 1999, and 2002. Bryan Getz is in his first year as head coach after serving as an assistant at the school for two years. Sophomore Todd Widom enters the weekend ranked 20th nationally in singles, though he has been ranked as high as No. 9 this year. The 2002 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Player is 21-8 overall, including 11-5 at No. 1 singles. Senior Andrew Golub and freshman Colin Purcell is the only conference pair ranked in doubles, coming in at 32nd with a 13-7 record.
Virginia Tech will be one of the contenders for this year’s title, earning the No. 2 seed for the second straight season. The Hokies were ranked 35th in the preseason and currently stand 41st. Virginia Tech is 15-5 (2-1 BE) and has won 10 of its last 12 matches. Virginia Tech and Notre Dame have faced one common opponent — Miami — with the Hokies posting a 5-2 win and the Irish losing 6-1. In just its third year in the league this year, Tech finished third in both the 2001 and ’02 BIG EAST Championships. Junior Andreas Laulund and senior Saber Kadiri are the highest-ranked singles players in the conference, other than Widom. Laulund is 77th, having posted a 26-7 overall record, including 14-4 in dual matches, playing Nos. 1-3. One of his losses was a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Irish sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) at No. 2 last month. Kadiri was 50th in the preseason and now stands 88th. He is 10-6 in dual-match action, playing Nos. 1-4, including a win over Widom at No. 1 in March. Notre Dame senior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) dealt Kadiri a three-set loss at No. 3 last month.
Fourth-seeded Rutgers was undefeated in five BIG EAST matches this spring and has won four of its last five contests. The Scarlet Knights are 6-9 overall. Rutgers finished fourth each of the last two conference tournaments, losing to Notre Dame in the semifinals on both occasions. The Knights have posted top-five finishes in the BIG EAST tournament every season since joining the league in 1996.
Boston College enters the BIG EAST tournament on a hot streak, having won eight of its last nine matches. The Eagles are 10-8 (5-1 BE) overall and their lone conference loss was a 4-3 decision to Rutgers. This will be the second year in a row B.C. and the Scarlet Knights will play in the first round of the conference tournament. A year ago, Rutgers won 4-3 after B.C. took the regular-season meeting by the same score. Boston College finished sixth in each of the last two BIG EAST tournaments, marking the program’s best results since 1995. The Eagles hold the record for most conference championships, winning 10 of the first 12 titles in BIG EAST history, including eight in a row from 1981-88.
St. John’s enters the postseason having won six of its last eight matches to finish the regular season with an 11-12 (4-2 BE) record. The Red Storm’s league losses were a 4-3 loss to Rutgers and a 4-1 decision against Boston College. St. John’s returns to the BIG EAST Championship after not qualifying a year ago. SJU won the league title in 1980 and ’91 and finished in the top five from 1999-2001.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame stands 54th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in the latest Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, the sixth 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.) is 106th in the newest set of individual rankings, released Wednesday.
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. Seven matches this spring have been determined by 4-3 scores, with five of those tilts being decided by the last singles match on-court and one with the score tied 3-3 and the doubles matches remaining. In addition, the Irish lost 4-2 to Duke with the abandoned match in a third set and beat Virginia Tech, Ball State and Indiana State by 5-2 scores in contests that each featured at least three three-set affairs (four vs. VT, three vs. BSU & ISU).
Notre Dame is 2-5 in one-point matches in ’03, and the Irish have lost five of six contests that were tied 3-3 with one point remaining. 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 came 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. 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. Finally, the Irish led 3-2 against SMU with the lone remaining singles match in a third-set tiebreaker and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) leading 3-1 before Lukasz Senczyszyn won six of the final seven points to win the tiebreaker and even the match at 3-3, setting up SMU to win the doubles point to claim victory.
D’AMICO’S DAY: Notre Dame’s Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) had his best day as a collegiate player on April 6 vs. SMU. The Irish sophomore posted his biggest-ever upsets in both singles and doubles, knocking off a top-55 singles player and a top-55 doubles team in the same day. D’Amico teamed with Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) to pull off a tiebreaker victory at No. 1 doubles against Johan Brunstrom and Henrik Soderberg, the 51st-ranked team in college tennis. Immediately thereafter, D’Amico delivered a convincing 6-4, 6-2 upset of #52 Gwinyai Chingoka at No. 3 singles.
Prior to the SMU match, D’Amico had just two career wins over ranked players in singles (vs. #84 Ryler DeHeart of Illinois and #114 Alex Herrera of Florida State in back-to-back matches in January) and one in doubles (over #55 Ryan Livesay/Dustin Taylor of Tulsa in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic).
Overall, D’Amico is 11-8 in singles dual matches (1-1 at No. 2, 10-7 at No. 3) after playing in just four dual matches a year ago, going 1-3 at No. 6. In doubles, D’Amico is 10-10 this spring — all at No. 1 — after being 14-7 a year ago, playing all but one match at No. 3.
BATTLE-TESTED: Each of Notre Dame’s regular starters in singles has had extensive experience this season playing in close matches while the outcome of the team match is hanging in the balance.
Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) has been playing in crunch time at No. 1 on five occasions. With the match tied 3-3, he lost to Mat Cloer of Florida State in a close two-setter, but defeated Michigan State’s Andy Formanczyk in a third-set tiebreaker. Haddock lost 7-5 in the third set to Tommy Hanus with the Irish leading 3-2 against Northwestern, but came through in three sets against Francis Huot of Virginia Tech, SMU’s Johan Brunstrom (in a final-set tiebreaker), Ball State’s Chris Varga and Indiana State’s Vedran Vidovic.
At No. 2, junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) beat Andrew Wakefield in a close two-setter to clinch the 4-3 win over Purdue, but has had a pair of three-set losses in 4-3 Notre Dame defeats. Tulsa’s Alejandro Tejerina beat Scott in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic and Lukasz Senczyszyn of SMU rallied from a 3-1 deficit in a third-set tiebreaker for a win to even that match at 3-3. Scott rebounded for a three-set victory over Henry Choi to clinch the Irish win against Indiana State.
Sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) fell in a third-set tiebreaker after leading 5-2 in the final set against Dustin Taylor of Tulsa, with the match tied 3-3 in the Blue/Gray Classic. D’Amico also lost a three-set verdict to Cameron Marshall of Michigan State in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win against the Spartans and fell to Ball State’s Kevin Burnett in three sets, though the Irish prevailed 5-2.
Senior tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) lost to Indiana’s Zach Held in three sets with the match tied 3-3 in the season opener, fell 7-5 in the third to Jonathan Stokke of Duke to clinch the Blue Devils’ 4-2 win, fell 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) to Shunsuke Shimizu of Tulsa in the 4-3 loss to the Golden Hurricane, and lost in three sets to Alexis Rudzinski of SMU in the one-point defeat at the hands of the Mustangs. Farrell came through against Virginia Tech, upsetting #64 Saber Kadiri in three sets in one of four three-setters in a 5-2 match, but lost in three sets to Dmytro Ishtuganov of Indiana State.
Junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) has been in three-setters in one-point matches four times this season. He won against Jimmy McGuire of Michigan State and SMU’s Henrik Soderberg in 4-3 matches, but fell to Purdue’s David Robinson and Northwestern’s Ahmed Wahla. He also beat Patrick Thompson in one of a trio of three setters in Notre Dame’s 5-2 victory over Ball State.
Freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) has dropped three-setters on three occasions this spring when the Irish ended up losing 4-3. He fell to Jullien Vulliez of Indiana in the season opener, to Adam Schaechterle of Northwestern in a third-set tiebreaker with the match tied 3-3, and to Tulsa’s Tom Murray in the first round of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic. Buchanan came through in a similar situation against Virginia Tech, defeating Michael Kurz in three sets to clinch the Irish victory.
IRISH HEAD COACH BOB BAYLISS: Now in his 16th year at Notre Dame, Bob Bayliss owns a 292-140 (.676) record and a 574-234 (.710) mark in 34 years as a collegiate coach, including 33 consecutive winning seasons. He ranks sixth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories and is one of just three coaches to have led his current team to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 12 seasons, a streak that also represents the longest of any sport at Notre Dame. Bayliss’ Irish have finished in the Top 20 nine times in the past 13 years, advancing to the NCAA round of 16 on five occasions, highlighted by a quarterfinal appearance in 1993 and a national runner-up finish in ’92. Bayliss, named national coach of the year in 1980 and ’92, is a four-time Midwest Region Coach of the Year and has been honored as his conference’s top coach on 10 occasions, including three times in seven years by the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Bayliss’ teams have won 10 conference titles, while his players have earned All-America honors 17 times, won eight national ITA awards, and earned 15 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 11 to the NCAA doubles tournament. A member of the University of Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English while playing tennis and basketball, Bayliss began his coaching career at Navy, where he coached for 11 years. He coached at MIT for three years before coming to Notre Dame in 1988.
BAYLISS TO COACH ITA ALL-STAR TEAM ON JAPANESE TOUR: Irish men’s tennis coach Bob Bayliss will be one of two coaches leading a 10-player Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-Star Team in a pair of exhibition matches in Tokyo, Japan this summer, the ITA announced on April 9. The team, comprised of top players from all of the ITA’s divisions (NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College), will help Waseda University celebrate its 100th anniversary of tennis by competing in two exhibition matches in Tokyo. Matches are scheduled to take place at Ariake Stadium, which holds 10,000 spectators. On June 14, the ITA All-Stars will face Waseda University, which earned the No. 1 ranking in Japan last year, before the U.S. squad takes on a Japanese All-Star Team the following day. The matches will feature a format similar to that used in World Team Tennis, which features men and women competing together on the same team in men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. It will mark the second time Bayliss has led a team of American collegiate players abroad for international competition. In 1991, he coached the United States to a gold medal in the World University Games in Sheffield, England.
YOU WANNA PLAY OUTSIDE?: The Irish have struggled outdoors this season, winning just twice in seven matches. Notre Dame was 1-2 at the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. in March, beating UAB, but losing to Tulsa and Boise State. The Irish then dropped outdoor matches against Miami, SMU, and Kentucky before beating Indiana State at the Courtney Tennis Center in the season finale. Notre Dame was 9-3 outdoors in 2002.
TOUGH YEAR: Notre Dame’s 12 regular-season losses in 2003 are the most since the 1988 squad finished with a 17-13 record. The Irish began the year with four consecutive losses after no previous Notre Dame had started worse than 0-2 in the 81-year history of the program. Standing 8-12 heading into postseason play, this year’s team is in danger of being the first Irish contingent since 1978 (12-14) and the first Bob Bayliss-coached squad ever to have a losing record.
HOME, SWEET HOME?: The confines of the Eck Tennis Pavilion were not friendly this season, with the Irish dropping each of the first five home matches before beating Michigan on March 6 and winding up with a 3-6 home indoor mark (the Irish did defeat Indiana State in the regular-season finale outdoors at the Courtney Tennis Center). Prior to this year, only once since its construction had Notre Dame lost more than three matches in the Eck Pavilion in one season. The Irish were 11-7 in the facility in its initial spring, 1988. Notre Dame was 10-0 in the Eck in 2002 and never had a losing season in the building prior to this year.
DOUBLES TROUBLES: After losing five of the top seven doubles players from last year’s team that won the doubles point 18 times in 30 matches (including eight sweeps), Notre Dame has struggled in doubles this spring. The Irish have won the doubles point just eight times in 20 matches and have been swept on five occasions. Overall, Notre Dame teams are 23-35 in doubles this spring.
For the second straight season, wins at the No. 2 position have been elusive. In ’02, the Irish were 12-14 at No. 2, while the other spots combined for a 37-17 mark. This season, the No. 2 spot has produced a 7-12 mark, just slightly better than the 6-13 record offered by the No. 3 flight.
NEED MORE ACTION: Notre Dame played only 20 matches during the regular season this year after having competed in 25 contests heading into the postseason a year ago. In 2002, the Irish played one more scheduled match, were in the championship of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic (adding another match), and played three times in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
BASS, SOUTH BEND’S KECKLEY SET TO JOIN IRISH: In November, Notre Dame head coach Bob Bayliss announced the signing of two incoming freshmen for the 2003-04 school year. Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish tennis team in the fall. Both competitors are among the top 18 current prep players who will be entering college in the fall and each has posted an undefeated record in regular-season singles matches in high school. Bass, whose brother Jimmy Bass (Bronxville, N.Y.) is a sophomore on the Irish tennis team, is ranked 23rd in the USTA Boys’ 18-and-under rankings and is 10th among American players who will enter college in the fall. He competed in the boys’ singles and doubles draw in the 2002 U.S. Open. Keckley completed a perfect 18-0 senior season by capturing the Indiana state singles title last fall. He is 46th in the USTA Boys’ 18s rankings and is 18th among current high school seniors in the U.S. Both players advanced to the round of 32 in the USTA Boys’ 18s National Hard Court Championships last summer.