Sept. 20, 2005
Seven teams that finished the 2004-05 campaign in the top 25 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings – including five that reached the final 16 of the NCAA Championship – will highlight the 2005-06 schedule for the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team, announced today. The Irish will have a relatively light fall slate – which begins this weekend with its lone home tournament, the Tom Fallon Invitational (Friday-Sunday at the Courtney Tennis Center) and also includes an exhibition match with traditional power USC at home on Oct. 14 a day before the schools meet in football – prior to commencing with the difficult spring schedule on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Northwestern.
In all, 18 of the 20 teams on Notre Dame’s schedule ended last year ranked among the top 75 in the nation, while 14 earned bids to the NCAAs. Among the top challenges on the Irish spring slate will be matches with Virginia (finished 5th, NCAA quarterfinals, Jan. 27, in Richmond, Va.), North Carolina (34th, first round, Feb. 4, away), Duke (9th, round of 16, Feb. 5, away), Illinois (6th, round of 16, Feb. 7, away), Ohio State (24th, second round, Feb. 24, home), Florida State (13th, quarterfinals, March 14, away), Texas (28th, second round, March 25, away), Texas A&M (18th, round of 16, March 26, away), and new BIG EAST rival Louisville (33rd, second round, April 13, home). Adding to the difficulty will be that ND will be at home for just two of those nine spring matches against squads that ended last season ranked among the top 35.
The Irish home schedule will feature two fall events, plus eight spring dual matches. Not only does it boast tough tests against the Trojans, Buckeyes, and Cardinals, but also matches against a trio of teams (including Louisville) who have not visited for some time, including two who will make their first trips to campus in more than 35 years. Louisville, which joined the BIG EAST Conference for the 2005-06 campaign, has not played at Notre Dame since 1957, the first meeting between the schools. The teams last met in the regular season in 1987-88, but the Cardinals then eliminated the Irish from the NCAA tournament last spring. Notre Dame and Bradley, which will play on Feb. 12, last met in 1988, and the Braves have not played at ND since 1969. The home opener will be on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. (EST) against William & Mary, with the Tribe visiting the Eck Tennis Pavilion for the first time since 1998.
This weekend will mark the 19th annual Tom Fallon Invitational, an annual rite of fall on Notre Dame’s campus. It continues the tradition of an Irish fall tournament first established in 1970 by Fallon, the legendary 31-year Notre Dame coach who won 514 matches and a national championship. It was renamed in his honor upon his retirement in 1987.
The fall schedule continues next month, when Irish senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) – who won the singles title in the ITA National Summer Championships last month – will take part in the first leg of the collegiate grand slam, the Polo Ralph Lauren ITA All-American Championships, from Oct. 6-9 in Tulsa, Okla. It will be the first time since 2001 (Casey Smith) that an Irish player has been in the main draw of the tournament, and it also will mark just the second time ever any member of Notre Dame’s men’s tennis team has competed in Tulsa. Luis Haddock played in the 2004 NCAA Singles Championship there.
On Friday, Oct. 14, Notre Dame and USC will resume a tradition of playing in both men’s and women’s tennis in the Eck Tennis Pavilion on the day prior to the teams hooking up in football in Notre Dame Stadium. The Trojans finished last season ranked 21st and dropped a 4-3 match in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. This will be the seventh time that the teams have played in men’s tennis on the eve of the football game at Notre Dame, with the Irish having won in 2001 by a 5-2 score against a Trojan team that would go on to claim the national championship. USC has prevailed in each of the other meetings: in 1989 (5-4), ’91 (6-3), ’93, ’99 (4-3), and ’03 (5-2).
Notre Dame will head to Ann Arbor, Mich., from Oct. 20-25 for the ITA Midwest Championships before the fall season wraps up with the second grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Columbus, Ohio, from Nov. 3-6.
In all, Notre Dame will play matches in 12 states and 19 different cities in 2005-06. Among the notable trips will be the team’s first-ever visit for a dual match to College Station, Texas (March 26 at Texas A&M). The only previous trip for the Irish came in the 2002 NCAA Championships, when they took part in the round of 16 of the team tournament and also played in both the singles and doubles events. Notre Dame also will travel to Austin, Texas, for the first time since 2000 to take on Texas the day before.
All but two (Bradley and Texas A&M) of the 19 teams on Notre Dame’s spring schedule also faced the Irish last season (with ND going 10-7). In addition to the scheduled dual matches, the Irish hope to earn an invitation to the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championship, slated for Feb. 17-20 in Seattle, Wash.
With the departure of Boston College to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the addition of four new institutions that play men’s tennis (DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, and South Florida), the BIG EAST Conference has a different look in 2005-06. The BIG EAST Conference Championship – scheduled for April 19-22 in Tampa, Fla. – will have an expanded format, as the top eight teams (out of 10) will compete for the league title. The Irish have reached the final of that event in all 10 years since becoming a league member, winning five titles. ND won back-to-back championships for the first time in 2004 and ’05 and has not lost a match in the tournament since 2001, winning the championship in ’02 and seeing the ’03 final rained out with no winner declared.
The 2006 NCAA Championship begins May 12-14 with first- and second-round action on 16 campus sites and concludes with the final four rounds of competition from May 20-23 in Stanford, Calif. The NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships run from May 24-29 in the same location.
This year’s Notre Dame squad returns six of eight starters from last year’s team that finished 18-7 and ranked 37th after peaking at 16th.