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Scott, Irish ready for tournament

Kate Gales | Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Two seemed to be the number defining the men’s tennis team this year.Two was the number they were seeded going into this year’s Big East tournament, and two was the number of losses they had in the conference. Two was the number of doubles matches they struggled to win in each match, and two is the number of rivals who are fighting in their last Big East tournament.Two was the number of senior tri-captains on the squad.And two is the number of years that have passed since the Irish last held the Big East title.”We can prepare all we want and talk about it all we want … but I don’t think it’s going to matter,” said Matthew Scott, who played mostly at No. 2 singles this year. “I just need to strap on the blue collar and get the job done.”Scott and fellow senior tri-captain Luis Haddock, as well as senior Paul Hidaka and junior tri-captain Brent D’Amico, tasted victory at the 2002 Big East tournament. They plan to leave Miami next weekend with nothing less.”We’ve gone to Miami every year for the Big East,” Haddock said. “We’ve had a good experience there, [but] I have nothing else in mind except winning the tournament. Nothing else will make me happy.”The Irish depart early Wednesday morning, allowing almost two full days to adapt to windy, hot and humid Coral Gables, where the tournament will be held. Their first match is at noon Friday against the winner of the Miami/Boston College game. Notre Dame and Miami have met in the finals every year since 1995-96, when the Irish joined the Big East. With an overall record of 13-8 and ranked No. 33 nationally, the Irish are the highest-ranked team in the tournament despite being 1-2 in conference play. “It’s the kind of thing you don’t need to get yourself up for – you already are,” said Scott of the Notre Dame/Miami tennis rivalry. “It gives you something [more] to play for.”Miami and Virginia Tech -the Irish’s two conference losses – leave the Big East next year.”Having lost to both teams gives us a special inclination to do well,” said coach Bobby Bayliss. Although the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech will change the makeup of the league, he pointed out that incoming Louisville and South Florida have serious commitments to their tennis programs.Bayliss was required to submit the roster in advance for the tournament, meaning that his ever-changing doubles lineups will stay put for the duration. Scott and Haddock will be the top doubles team.”What these guys do together well is break their opponent down from two back,” Bayliss said. “They’re both pretty experienced and they have good chemistry.””We played one match together when we were sophomores,” Scott said.”Which we won,” Haddock was quick to point out. The two played together briefly in the fall as Brent D’Amico recovered from an injury and started playing together full-time midseason.”The best thing we do is our movement and court coverage,” said Scott.”I know exactly what shots he can hit and what shots he cannot hit,” Haddock added.They agreed that it was good to know that “somebody has your back.””That’s probably why my back hurts so much,” joked Haddock.Their easy banter was a constant reminder that these two have seen the ups and downs of the collegiate tennis program and are consummate teammates – this year, for the last time.”I’d like to see them end their careers in style,” he said. “I’d like to see them have a chance to take it as far as they can … I can’t ask for much more out of each of them.”He paused, with the Big East tournament looming in his mind.”Well, maybe a little more,” he said to the two of them.