April 30, 2004
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The second-seeded and 36th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (14-8) battled through the heat and humidity, as well as a home-court advantage, to beat arch-rival #49 Miami (13-8) 4-1 Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship on the Hurricanes’ home courts, the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex. The Irish advanced to the conference title match for the ninth consecutive year, but for the first time will not face Miami. Instead, Notre Dame, which has won three titles and saw last year’s final rained out in progress with no winner declared, will meet top-seeded #48 Virginia Tech (15-10) on Saturday at Noon (EDT). Once again, in-match updates will be available at the top and bottom of every hour, and more frequently if the action merits it, via the Notre Dame Sports Hotline, which can be accessed by dialing 574-631-3000 and pressing #8 for tennis.
The Irish took the doubles point and three of the four singles matches that were completed to avenge a 5-2 home loss to Miami earlier this spring.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but then struggled to get a final point to secure the victory. After the Hurricanes netted a straight-set win at No. 4, only the top three matches remained on the court, with the Irish up 3-1.
Senior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), a leading candidate to be named the conference’s Most Outstanding Player, took advantage of the opportunity to deliver the knockout blow to one of Notre Dame’s most intense rivals in what could be the last meeting between the schools for some time due to Miami’s departure to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season and no plans for the regular-season series to continue. Haddock, ranked 64th nationally in singles, clinched the Irish victory with a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Josh Cohen at No. 1. The Irish senior was down a service break at 2-3 in the second set before taking four consecutive games to force a decisive frame. He broke serve in the opening game of the third set, added another break in the seventh game, and served out the match to even the series between the schools in the BIG EAST tournament at 4-4-1.
Haddock, who missed the regular-season meeting with the Hurricanes due to an injury, has won eight of his last nine matches and is 20-10 on the season, including 12-5 in dual matches (11-5 at No. 1). Cohen was 20-8 prior to the match, including12-3 at No. 1.
The Puerto Rican has been outstanding this season at bouncing back from a slow start, as he holds a 6-6 record when dropping the first set. Haddock has been one of Notre Dame’s top players in tight matches, going 9-3 over the last two years in three-setters when the team match is still undetermined.
Haddock reversed a trend of not finishing his singles matches in the BIG EAST tournament. In his first three years of competition, he finished just once in seven league-championship tilts. His only other decision also was an important one, as he posted a three-set victory against Francis Huot of Virginia Tech at No. 1 in Notre Dame’s five-hour, 4-3 win over the Hokies in last year’s semifinals.
Notre Dame led in the two matches left on the court when Haddock notched his team-high fifth clinching win of the season. Freshman Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School), Notre Dame’s top crunch-time player this season, was up a service break in the third set at 3-0 against John Hoyes at No. 3 after Bass took the first set 6-3 and the Hurricane won the second by the same score. Bass is 8-0 in three-set matches this season, including 6-0 when the team outcome is still undetermined.
In the other abandoned contest, senior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) staged an improbable comeback to take the first set against Eric Hechtman at No. 2. The Hurricane was leading 5-2 and served for the set on three occasions, but Scott saved multiple set points in rallying to force a tiebreaker, which he won 7-2 to finally conclude the opening set, which lasted one hour and 23 minutes. Hechtman was up 4-1 on Scott, who was suffering from heat exhaustion and a rolled ankle, in the second set when the match was abandoned.
Due to a flu-like illness that struck the Irish this week, Notre Dame was forced to use a new combination at No. 3 doubles, while its No. 2 team had played together just one time previously. Nevertheless, those combinations handed the Irish the doubles point.
First off was the team of Bass and freshman Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.), who beat Cohen and P.J. Passalacqua 8-4 at No. 3. The rookies had not played together prior to Friday.
Junior tri-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) and sophomore Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.), who teamed together for the first time in the regular-season finale, beat Hoyes and Jeremiah Fuller 8-4 at No. 2 to improve to 2-0 as a team. D’Amico moved to 4-0 in his career in doubles matches at the BIG EAST Championship, while Langenkamp was making his debut in the tournament.
Hechtman and Purcell were on the verge of a victory at No. 1, but could not put away Haddock and Scott. Leading 7-6, the Miami duo had four match points, but could not convert any of them. The Hurricanes saved four break points in the 14th game, but eventually were forced to abandon the match when D’Amico and Langenkamp were victorious at No. 2 to clinch the doubles point.
Keckley, who did not travel with the team this week due to illness, was pulled from the singles lineup. Langenkamp replaced him at No. 6, and he was first off the court, dropping just a single game in beating Tim Krebs 6-0, 6-1. The Irish sophomore is 19-5 this season, including 10-3 in dual matches. The first-set shutout was the eighth 6-0 set this season for Langenkamp, who registered his fourth 6-0, 6-1 victory of 2003-04.
Irish freshman Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) put Notre Dame up 3-0 by beating Jeremiah Fuller 6-2, 6-0 at No. 5. It was the fourth consecutive win for King, who is 16-10 on the season and 12-7 in dual matches.
Miami got on the board when Purcell finished a 6-4, 6-4 decision against D’Amico at No. 4. It marked the first defeat for the Irish junior in seven career BIG EAST tournament contests.
The Hurricanes were 13-1 at home coming into Friday’s match.
Virginia Tech moved into the final for the first time since joining the conference in 2001 with a 4-0 victory against St. John’s on Friday morning.
The Hokies won a pair of tight doubles matches and a three-setter at No. 6 to claim a 4-3 triumph over Notre Dame on April 4 in Blacksburg.
Notre Dame and Miami had met in each of the previous eight BIG EAST title matches, with the Irish winning in 1996, ’99, and 2002, and last year’s contest being rained out.
Miami will face fourth-seeded St. John’s in the third-place match on Saturday at 9 a.m. (EDT).
 #36 Notre Dame 4,  #49 Miami 1
No. 1 *#64 Luis Haddock (ND) d. Josh Cohen (M) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
No. 2 Matthew Scott (ND) led Eric Hechtman (M) 7-6 (7-2), 1-4, abandoned
No. 3 Stephen Bass (ND) led John Hoyes (M) 6-3, 3-6, 3-0, abandoned
No. 4 Colin Purcell (M) d. Brent D’Amico (ND) 6-4, 6-4
No. 5 Barry King (ND) d. Jeremiah Fuller (M) 6-2, 6-0
No. 6 Eric Langenkamp (ND) d. Tim Krebs (M) 6-0, 6-1
Order of finish: 6, 5, 4, 1*
No. 1 Hechtman/Purcell (M) led Haddock/Scott (ND) 7-6, abandoned
No. 2 *D’Amico/Langenkamp (ND) d. Fuller/Hoyes (M) 8-4
No. 3 S. Bass/Ryan Keckley (ND) d. Cohen/P.J. Passalacqua (M) 8-4
Order of finish: 3, 2*