April 18, 2005
The University of Notre Dame (16-7) has garnered the No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Conference Men’s Tennis Championship, slated for this Thursday-Saturday, April 21-23, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Irish, ranked 29th in the nation, gained a bye in the first round and will be in action in the semifinals on Friday at 9 a.m. (EDT) against either fourth-seeded Georgetown (6-7, 3-2) or fifth-seeded St. John’s (5-11, 3-2). The final is set for Saturday at 9 a.m.
The Hoyas and Red Storm will play in the first round on Thursday at 9 a.m., while third-seeded Rutgers (6-8, 4-1) and sixth-seeded Villanova (7-12, 1-4) will face off at Noon. The winner of the latter contest will take on second-seeded Boston College (11-11, 3-1) on Friday at Noon.
Notre Dame is the No. 1 seed in the event for the seventh time, but the first since 2002. The Irish also came in as the top seed in 1996, ’97, ’98, ’99, and 2001. Notre Dame has reached the final of the BIG EAST tournament in all nine years since becoming a conference member in 1995-96, winning championships in 1996, ’99, 2002, and ’04, while seeing the ’03 title match rained out.
A year ago, the Irish defeated perennial rival and tournament host Miami 4-1 in the semifinals and then downed top-seeded Virginia Tech 4-2 in the final. Both the Hurricanes and Hokies are now members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. St. John’s finished fourth in 2004, while Boston College was fifth, and Rutgers ended up sixth.
Seven of the 12 members of the BIG EAST Conference field teams in men’s tennis, but the league does not require round-robin competition during the season. The top six teams, as selected by the conference based on national ranking and head-to-head results, earned invitations to the league championship, a single-elimination team tournament with the top two seeds receiving byes and the winner gaining the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Championship, which begins on campus sites May 13-15. Connecticut (6-8, 0-4) was the lone team not to qualify for the event.
Notre Dame did not take on any BIG EAST schools during the regular season, but earned the top seed on the basis of being the only conference squad in the national rankings, as well as the only one with a winning record. The Irish carry a six-match winning streak in BIG EAST Championship play into this year’s tournament, having claimed titles in 2002 and ’04 and won a pair of matches to reach the rained-out final in ’03. Their last defeat was a 4-2 decision against #14 Miami in the ’01 final. Notre Dame also currently boasts a 19-match winning streak against unranked teams (last loss: 1/24/03 vs. Indiana, 4-3) and holds a 26-2 (.929) all-time mark against current members of the BIG EAST, including a current 18-match winning streak (last loss: 2/17/89 at West Virginia, 6-3).