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Irish experience both ends of the spectrum

Joe Meixell | Monday, January 26, 2004

Irish coach Bob Bayliss had an analogy to sum up his squad’s weekend performance.

“Sometimes you’re the bug,” Bayliss observed wryly, “and sometimes you’re the windshield.”

The men’s tennis team had a taste of both roles this weekend, as a disappointing loss to No. 9 Texas A&M was offset by decisive wins against St. John’s and Illinois State.

“We played almost well enough to win this match,” Bayliss said of the 5-2 loss to the Aggies. “We had enough windows of opportunity – if we had capitalized on all of them, it would have been a different [outcome].”

Irish No. 4 Stephen Bass and No. 6 Eric Langencamp were the only players to post points against the Aggies. Bass won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) over Khaled El Dorry, and Langencamp beat Bryan Wooten 6-4, 6-3.

Notre Dame’s No. 1 Luis Haddock lost 6-1, 6-3 to Lester Cook, ranked No. 17 nationally in singles play. At No. 2, Matthew Scott fell 6-1, 6-1 to Ante Matijevic, ranked No. 19.

At three, Mohamed Dakki beat Notre Dame’s Brent D’Amico by a score of 7-5, 6-4 to clinch the match for Texas A&M, and freshman Barry King was defeated by Brett Joelson 6-2, 7-5 at six.

“We let them off the hook in doubles,” Bayliss said. “We just didn’t have enough first serves. In singles, they were so dominant at one and two, they jumped out 3-0, which took a lot of pressure off [the bottom three].”

In doubles, Cook and Matijevic, ranked No. 1 in the nation, defeated Haddock and Ryan Keckley, ranked No. 18, by a score of 8-6. At two, Dakki and Joelsom beat D’Amico and Scott 8-4, while Bass and King fell to Ell Dorry and Zack Malmgren 8-6.

“Friday was a tough match,” Scott said, “against a good Texas A&M team.”

Sunday was a different story, however, as Notre Dame swept St. John’s 6-0, winning all singles matches in two sets.

“These were matches we expected to win,” Bayliss said. “St. John’s will [probably] qualify for the Big East Tournament, and it’s important to win decisively over Big East opponents.”

The Irish lost only 27 games to St. Johns, an average of 4.5 per match. At the No. 1 spot, Haddock clinched the match for Notre Dame, defeating David Nylen 6-3, 6-1. At two, Scott posted a 6-3, 6-4 win over Aurelio Di Zazzo and Brent D’Amico topped Louis Desmerteaux 6-4, 6-1 at three.

At four, Bass defeated Nick Stocker 6-1, 6-3, and King beat Morgan Bauer 6-1, 6-2. Langenkamp remained consistent by topping Boris Chiporukha 6-1, 6-3 at No. 6.

Doubles were not played. Bayliss had hoped to clinch the match in singles and “substitute liberally in the doubles matches,” he said Friday. The team’s solid singles play, however, meant the players had a longer break before facing Illinois State at 2 pm.

“We expected to win,” Haddock said of the match against the Red Storm. “The good thing was that we won every set. It’s hard to come out fired up against a lower level team, especially after not playing [for a day].”

It was Haddock’s first match victory of the spring season.

Despite the quick turnaround, the Irish came out strong against Illinois State, posting a 6-1 win over the Redbirds.

Notre Dame took all six singles matches, allowing the team to showcase its depth in doubles.

“It was the best I’ve played this season,” Haddock said of his 6-3, 6-1 win over Ben Cappuccitti at No. 1. “He’s not as good as other players I’ve played, but I felt good about [my performance].”

At No. 2, Scott defeated Benjamin Pettinari, also by a score of 6-3, 6-1. An arm injury kept D’Amico on the sidelines for the Illinois State match, moving Bass, a freshman, to the third spot. Bass rose to the challenge, winning over Djordje Uskokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

At four, King defeated Nogrobat 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, and Langenkamp beat Alban Renard 6-0, 6-1 in the first match to finish. No. 6 Pat Buchanan won 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 over Alfredo Lagarda.

In doubles, Paul Hidaka and Ryan Keckley defeated Chris Cozad and Pettinari 8-3. However, Guillermo Gomez and Renard beat Notre Dame’s Ben Hatten and Bobby McNally 8-6 to clinch the match, with Cappucciti and Tim Link winning over Jimmy Bass and Nick Chimerakis 8-3 to get the point for St. John’s.

“This win is significant because we have three players unavailable,” Bayliss said. D’Amico’s shoulder injury, Keckley’s recent recovery from an ankle injury and Irackli Akhvendiani’s case of the flu forced the Irish to rely on a deep roster.

“It speaks well of the depth of our team,” Bayliss said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t come out faster – three guys lost in first sets – but came back to win.”

Scott is also coming off a leg injury, and did not play a full doubles match from October 2003 until last Saturday’s victory at Indiana.

“We’re really deep,” Scott said of Sunday’s contest. “When guys like Pat [Buchanan] come up, their role is to be ready if called upon, and Pat did a great job stepping up at the last minute.”