March 5, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (3-6) will return to dual-match action this week, playing host to No. 57 Michigan (5-4) on Thursday at 4 p.m. (EST) in the Eck Tennis Pavilion in a rematch of the first round of last year’s NCAA Championship. The Irish, ranked 46th in the latest ITA national rankings, registered a 4-0 win in the ’02 postseason after the Wolverines gained a 4-3 regular-season win after Notre Dame had moved up to No. 4, matching the highest midseason national ranking in school history. Michigan, which leads the all-time series 41-21, has more wins over the Irish than any other school, but Notre Dame is 12-4 against the Wolverines in the Bob Bayliss era.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: Notre Dame took a break from dual-match action last weekend, sending eight players to La Jolla, Calif. for the Pacific Coast Doubles Championship, a non-NCAA event from which no individual results count. It gave Notre Dame an opportunity to play outdoors for the first time this spring, working on doubles, an area that has been a difficulty at times this year. A number of Irish pairs played well, with junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) advancing to the round of 16 in the main draw of the championship flight. Two Notre Dame captains, senior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) and Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), also reached the third round before falling.
The last time the Irish were in dual-match play was nearly two weeks ago when Notre Dame split a pair of matches determined by third-set tiebreakers in the final match on-court with the score tied 3-3. On Feb. 19, Notre Dame pulled out a 4-3 win at Michigan State when Haddock finished a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-2) win over Andy Formanczyk at No. 1. The Spartans won the doubles point on the strength of a 9-7 victory from Adam Hourani and Jimmy McGuire at No. 2 in the final match on-court. In singles, Notre Dame also got wins at Nos. 2 and 5, as well as 6 — a three-set triumph from junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista).
Three days later, Notre Dame came out on the short end of a similar match, falling 4-3 at home to Northwestern. The Irish won the doubles point with a win from Farrell and Haddock at No. 2 in the deciding match and built a 3-1 lead before dropping a trio of three-set decisions. Notre Dame got wins at Nos. 2 and 4 singles, but the Wildcats won the decisive sets at Nos. 1, 5, and 6 to prevail. Tommy Hanus squeaked out a 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 7-5 thriller at No. 1 against Haddock just seconds before Adam Schaechterle finished off freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) at No. 5.
IRISH vs. WOLVERINES: Michigan enters the match with a two-match winning streak and a 5-4 record. The Wolverines were ranked 48th in the preseason, but have now fallen to 57th. Michigan’s losses have all come against teams currently in the national rankings (Western Michigan, Florida State, William & Mary, and Wake Forest). Michigan has registered 7-0 wins in its last two matches, against Butler and Toledo, and also has wins over Ball State, Tulsa, and DePaul. Following the visit to Notre Dame, the Wolverines will play each of their remaining matches against Big Ten opponents. Michigan and the Irish have played one common opponent, with both losing to Florida State. The Wolverines fell 6-1, while Notre Dame lost 4-3. Sophomore Michael Rubin is the lone Michigan player in the national rankings, listed 101st in singles with an 18-6 record, including 7-2 this spring. Michigan and Notre Dame squared off in a hidden dual singles match in last fall’s Tom Fallon Invitational, with the teams splitting eight matches.
The Wolverines were 15-9 (5-5 Big Ten) a year ago, falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament 4-0 to Notre Dame. Michigan was ranked as high as 30th before finishing 46th. Head coach Mark Mees is in his fourth season with a 48-30 (.615) record.
The Wolverines and the Irish will meet for the 15th straight year and 63rd time overall. Michigan has more wins over the Irish than any other school, leading the series 41-21. The second varsity match in the history of Notre Dame’s program was a 5-0 loss to the Wolverines in 1923. Michigan is the only Big Ten team to have played Notre Dame more than twice and have a winning record. The Irish have won 12 of 16 matches in the Bob Bayliss era, but the teams have split the last four meetings. Notre Dame has won each of the last six meetings at home against Michigan. The Irish will head into the match ranked higher than the Wolverines for the fourth straight match and 13th time in the last 15 contests.
The teams split a pair of meetings in 2002. On March 27, the 46th-ranked Wolverines stunned No. 4 Notre Dame, which had risen to its highest midseason national ranking in the program’s history, 4-3 in Ann Arbor. Michigan won at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles to take the initial point, which turned out to be decisive. In singles, the Wolverines got wins at the top three spots, including a three-set triumph from Matt Lockin at No. 2 over Casey Smith to clinch the win. The teams matched up again in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Notre Dame. This time the 14th-ranked Irish posted a 4-0 win over #47 Michigan. Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) and Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) pulled out a 9-8 (8-6) win at No. 3 doubles in the final match on-court to give Notre Dame the initial point. The Irish clinched the match with straight-set wins at Nos. 1, 2, and 6. Two of the three remaining matches were in third sets while the Wolverines won the first set in the other.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame stands 46th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in this week’s Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings. 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. Notre Dame’s current ranking matches the lowest for the Irish since the ITA began ranking more than 25 teams in the 1994 season.
The third set of individual national rankings was announced last Wednesday, with one Irish player mentioned. Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) is 88th in singles after being listed 72nd prior to the dual-match season. New sets of individual rankings will be released every two weeks from now until the end of the season.
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. Five of nine matches this spring have been decided by 4-3 scores (after just eight 4-3 matches in 30 contests a year ago), with four of those tilts being decided by the last singles match on-court. The Irish also lost 4-2 to Duke with the abandoned match in a third set.
Notre Dame is 2-3 in one-point matches in ’03, but the Irish have lost three of four contests that have come down to a final singles match with the teams knotted at 3-3. 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. Each of the last two Irish matches have not only come down to the last match on-court, but have been 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 topped 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.
BIG ELEVEN (OR TWELVE)?: Though Notre Dame participates in the BIG EAST Conference in men’s tennis, a glance at the Irish schedule may not bear out that fact. Notre Dame will face only a pair of BIG EAST foes (Virginia Tech and Miami) during the regular season, but will take on a total of nine teams from the Big Ten Conference. Only Penn State and Iowa from the Big Ten will not play the Irish this season. A year ago, Notre Dame played 13 matches against Big Ten teams (including the Blue-Gray Classic and NCAA tournament), posting a 9-4 mark. In ’03, the Irish are 3-4 thus far, with matches remaining against Michigan (Thursday) and Minnesota (March 22).
Notre Dame has had a long history of playing the teams that now make up the Big Ten, posting an all-time 304-222-2 (.578) mark, averaging nearly seven matches per season against Big Ten teams in the 81-year history of the program. The Irish have played each of the original 10 members of the conference at least 25 times, holding a winning mark against every team but Michigan (21-41).
HOME, SWEET HOME?: The confines of the Eck Tennis Pavilion have not been friendly this season, with the Irish dropping all five home matches thus far. 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 has never had a losing season in the building. Five home dates remain this spring.
STREAKING SCOTTY: Irish junior Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) has shrugged off a slow start to become one of Notre Dame’s most consistent winners of late. After opening the season 5-11 in singles, the tri-captain has won five of his last six at No. 2 singles — all in straight sets — including the clinching match in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win over Purdue. Scott was 32-5 overall last year in singles and 24-3 in dual matches.
Scott also has caught fire in doubles with partner Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School), winning four of six matches at No. 1 to improve to 6-5 this season.
THE PUERTO RICAN WAY: Notre Dame’s two Puerto Rican players, Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista), have played so many marathon matches of late that they may think they are back on the clay courts of their homeland. Three of the last five matches for Haddock at No. 1 singles have been decided in 12 games or more in the third set, with the Puerto Rican playing five tiebreakers in those contests. He topped Wisconsin’s Alexander Kasarov 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 on Feb. 4 before beating Michigan State’s Andy Formanczyk 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-2) and losing to Tommy Hanus 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-3), 7-5 in back-to-back matches.
After playing five matches decided in match tiebreakers in the fall, Lopez-Acevedo has had five of his last seven matches be undecided after two sets, going 1-4 in those contests. He fell 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 to Purdue’s Troy Havens in the first round of the Omni Hotels Midwest Championships to close out the fall before opening the spring with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 loss to Illinois’ Chris Martin. David Robinson of Purdue gained a 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 1-0 (10-8) win over Lopez-Acevedo before the Irish junior beat Michigan State’s Jimmy McGuire 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 and lost to Northwestern’s Ahmed Wahla 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in consecutive matches.
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.