Jan. 28, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (0-2) will have two opportunities at home this week to pick up its first victory of the season. On Wednesday, the Irish will welcome Illinois (1-0), the nation’s No. 2 team, to the Eck Tennis Pavilion, while Florida State (2-0) will visit on Friday, with both matches slated to start at 4:00 p.m. The Illini and the Irish met three times a year ago, with Notre Dame taking the regular-season meeting and Illinois winning in the final of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic and in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Irish and Seminoles will play for just the third time ever and the first since 1992.
Friday’s match will be this season’s men’s tennis “Gold Game,” a distinction created by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council to encourage the entire Notre Dame community to attend designated contests.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: The Irish dropped a pair of decisions to Big Ten teams to open the spring season last weekend. On Friday, Indiana rallied from a 3-2 deficit to gain a 4-3 road victory over the Irish. Notre Dame swept its way to the doubles point and took the first set in four of six singles matches, but could not hold on as Jullien Vulliez (No. 6) and Zach Held (No. 4) each rallied for three-set victories to clinch the match. Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) won his first career match at No. 1 singles and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) was triumphant at No. 3 after playing in just four dual matches a year ago, all at No. 6.
On Sunday, Ohio State broke a 14-match losing streak against Notre Dame and beat the Irish for the first time since 1988, 6-1. The Buckeyes swept the doubles matches and won five of six singles contests for the win. D’Amico was the lone Notre Dame victor, winning again at No. 3 singles.
IRISH vs. ILLINI: Illinois, ranked No. 2 in the ITA preseason national rankings, won its season opener on Sunday, 6-1 against Ball State. The Illini have five singles players and two doubles teams carrying national rankings. Three of those players — No. 2 Amer Delic, No. 6 Phil Stolt, and No. 42 Michael Calkins — missed the season opener against the Cardinals, but Illinois still won all three doubles contests and each of the top five singles tilts. The Illini expect to have a full lineup on Wednesday, which will also include No. 20 Brian Wilson and No. 84 Ryler DeHeart. In doubles, Calkins and Delic are No. 2, while Stolt and Wilson are No. 35.
Last year, Illinois finished 26-5 (13-0 Big Ten) and No. 4 in the nation, including the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles and an appearance in the final of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Illini fell in the NCAA quarterfinals 4-2 to eventual national champion USC. In midseason, Illinois climbed to No. 1 in the national rankings, marking the first time a Big Ten school had done so in men’s tennis. The Illini return four of their top five players from that team. Head coach Craig Tiley is in his 10th season at Illinois and has a 186-71 record, including three appearances in the NCAA quarters and three National Team Indoor runner-up finishes.
Illinois and Notre Dame will meet for the 15th consecutive season and the 33rd time overall. The Irish lead the series 19-13, but the Illini have won seven of the last eight meetings, including in last year’s NCAA round of 16 as well as the 2000 and ’02 Blue/Gray National Tennis Classics. Irish head coach Bob Bayliss won each of his first 10 meetings against Illinois before the current skid. The squads first met in 1933 with Illinois registering a 7-0 win.
Last season, the Illini took two of three meetings. In the regular season, Notre Dame grabbed a 4-3 road win on the strength of a tiebreaker win in the last doubles match on-court and a three-set victory from Casey Smith at No. 2 singles with the scored tied 3-3. Eleven days later, Illinois got revenge in the final of the Blue/Gray Classic with a 4-2 victory, though the Irish were playing without their No. 3 singles and doubles player Aaron Talarico. In that match, Illinois won the doubles point and at Nos. 2, 5, and 6 singles. In the NCAAs, the Illini also won the initial point and then again gained wins at Nos. 2, 5, and 6 singles for a 4-1 win.
IRISH vs. SEMINOLES: Florida State, listed 50th in the preseason rankings, shut out both Florida A&M and UAB to win the title in the Seminole Team Tournament last weekend to open the spring. Alex Herrera is the lone FSU player ranked in singles, coming in at 114th, while he and Romain Jurd are 38th in doubles. Florida State returns eight letterwinners from last year’s team that was 12-10 (4-4 ACC) and finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 55th in the nation. The ‘Noles won their first five matches, rising to 37th in the nation, and were 7-1 and then 11-3 before losing seven of their last eight contests. Dwayne Hultquist is in his fourth year at the helm of the Florida State program, having compiled a 38-34 record.
The Seminoles, along with Virginia Tech, are one of two new teams on Notre Dame’s 2003 dual-match schedule. Florida State and the Irish have met just two previous times, with the Seminoles taking the initial meeting 6-3 in 1964 and Notre Dame grabbing a 5-1 victory in 1992. Florida State is one of 46 teams (of 91 total opponents during the time frame) that Bob Bayliss holds an undefeated record against as Irish head coach.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Bob Bayliss is in his 16th year at Notre Dame with a 284-130 (.686) record and his 34th year as a collegiate coach with a 566-224 (.716) mark. 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 in 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.
ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame entered the 2003 season ranked 27th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after finishing 2002 ranked 14th. A new set of team rankings is slated to be released on Wednesday. The Irish have been ranked in the preseason national top 35 in each of the last 13 years. A pair of junior tri-captains earned mention in the fall national singles rankings. Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) is listed a career-high 72nd, while Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris), Notre Dame’s only player ranked in the preseason poll released in September, is tied for 119th. In the midwest region singles rankings released at the end of the fall season, Haddock and Scott were 10th and 13th, respectively, in singles, while Scott and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) were14th in doubles.
SLOW START: Notre Dame lost its first two matches of the dual-match season for the first time since 1991. The Irish have started 0-3 just once in the 81-year history of the program and have never lost each of their first four matches of the season. In 1988, Bob Bayliss’first year, Notre Dame was 0-3, but rebounded for a 17-13 record.
MAKING A JUMP: A pair of Notre Dame players were successful in playing higher in the lineup than they had done previously. Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) defeated Indiana’s Viktor Libal 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in his first career match at No. 1 singles. Prior to this season, Haddock had played 39 of his 41 dual matches at Nos. 3 or 4 with an additional one win at both Nos. 2 and 5. Sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) is 2-0 this season at No. 3 singles after playing singles in only three matches a year ago, going 1-3 at No. 6. D’Amico also won at No. 1 doubles against Indiana, marking the first time he had played that position. In 2002, he was 13-7 at No. 3 and 1-0 at No. 2.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2003 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 17 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 13 of them earned berths to last year’s NCAA tournament and are in the top 50 of this year’s ITA preseason rankings, including six in the top 30. Highlighting Notre Dame’s schedule are five matches with Top 25 foes — at No. 24 Ohio State (Jan. 26), vs. No. 2 Illinois (Jan. 29), vs. No. 11 Duke (Feb. 9), vs. No. 19 Minnesota (March 22), and at No. 9 Kentucky (April 13). Illinois and Kentucky each advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago. In addition to the 17 scheduled matches, the Irish will compete in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic, in which Notre Dame has faced at least one top-25 team in each of the last 12 years.
CHANGE — NOTHING STAYS THE SAME: Two Notre Dame road matches have been moved from their original dates. The Irish will travel to Wisconsin on Tue., Feb. 4 instead of two days later, and Notre Dame will be at Kentucky on Sun., April 11 instead of two days earlier.
BASS, SOUTH BEND’S KECKLEY SET TO JOIN IRISH: Bob Bayliss recently 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.
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.