April 26, 2003
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The weather was the lone victor on Saturday, as rain fell steadily all day, preventing any tennis from being played in the 2003 BIG EAST Championships. The semifinals of both the men’s and women’s tournaments will instead be played Sunday, weather permitting, beginning at 7:00 a.m. (EDT) at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center, with the championship matches to follow 1-2 hours afterwards. Notre Dame’s women’s team (13-8), ranked 24th and seeded No. 2 in the event, is scheduled to play the third seed, Boston College, in semifinal action. The defending BIG EAST champion Irish men (9-12), seeded third and ranked 54th this year, will face the No. 2 seed, #41 Virginia Tech, in the conference semis. Both Notre Dame teams have reached the championship match all seven years since joining the conference in 1996, capturing a total of seven titles (4 women, 3 men).
After Friday’s opening-round action was played under sunny skies, showers and scattered thunderstorms set in early Saturday morning in south Florida. The first wave of matches was never able to take the court and after a day of optimistic reports from conference officials, Saturday’s play was finally cancelled around 8:00 p.m. (EDT).
Sunday will see all four semifinal matches take the court with limited space available. Seven courts each will be allocated to the men’s and women’s draws. The matches will begin with singles play on available courts (3-4 matches at one time per contest), followed by doubles play if necessary. All postseason matches are stopped when one team reaches four points, clinching victory.
The other two semifinal matches will feature the host Miami Hurricanes, with both teams seeded No. 1. The Miami women, ranked 20th, will face #65 Virginia Tech, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, while the 29th-ranked Hurricane men are scheduled to face fourth-seeded Rutgers.
While the Irish women’s team has virtually assured itself one of the 33 at-large bids into the NCAA Championship, regardless of this weekend’s outcome, the Notre Dame men could see their NCAA prospects go down the drain if rain washes out the final day of BIG EAST competition. The Irish, ranked 54th with their best wins against #41 Virginia Tech and #46 Purdue, figure to have slim hopes of an at-large bid, leaving the conference’s automatic berth – awarded to the league champion – as the only way to extend the program’s streak of 12 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. If weather does not permit the completion of the event, the top remaining seed would be awarded the BIG EAST’s automatic bid.
The Notre Dame men opened play on Friday with a 4-0 win against No. 6 seed St. John’s in the first round of action. The Irish, who beat Virginia Tech 5-2 on March 23 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, have never given up a point in advancing to the championship match against Miami in each of the previous seven years, winning titles in 1996, ’99, and last year.
The Irish women gained a bye into the tournament’s semifinals and will take on a B.C. team they topped 6-1 on Feb. 16 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame has advanced to the title match against Miami each of the last seven years, capturing championships in 1996, ’97, ’99, and 2001.
Fans can keep up with Sunday’s action via the Notre Dame Sports Hotline, which will be updated every 15-30 minutes during Irish matches. Semi-live reports can be accessed by dialing (574) 631-3000 and selecting option #8 for tennis. In addition, the official athletic website of the University of Notre Dame, www.und.com, will feature recaps of all Irish action at the end of the day.