95-96 Season in Review
A sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Championship highlighted the 1995-96 Notre Dame season while senior captain Mike Sprouse represented the Irish at the NCAA singles tournament. Notre Dame finished the season with an overall mark of 18-11 and posted a 10-2 record in regional play.
The Irish finished the season ranked No. 36 in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Region IV tournament, which was held at Notre Dame, and dropped a 4-3 decision to Minnesota in the first round. Notre Dame won the BIG EAST Conference championship title in a tournament played in Miami April 18-21. Notre Dame, which was the top seed in the event, defeated Boston College in the quarterfinals by a 4-0 score, topped Rutgers in the semifinal 4-0 and beat Miami in the championship match 4-0. The win helped propel Notre Dame to a first-place finish in the BIG EAST Commisioner's Cup for men in the first year the Irish were a member of the conference.
Sprouse won his first round match against Gus Fernandes of LSU by a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 score before being eliminated in ths second round by Simon Aspelin of Pepperdine (6-3, 2-6, 7-5). Sprouse was also named the Midwest regional winner of the Tennis Magazine/ITA/Arthur Ashe, Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. Sprouse, who won the national edition of this award last year, was one of eight finalists for the national award. Sprouse finished the season ranked No. 37 in the country by the ITA.
Earlier in the season, Ryan Simme, Jakub Pietowski were all ranked in singles as well, while Sprouse and Jason Pun were ranked in doubles. Sprouse gave Notre Dame a strong No. 1 in dual match play. Sprouse was 15-9 in dual match play at the No. 1 singles spot and is 21-16 on the season overall. During the fall season, Sprouse played in the National Clay Court Championship, the ITA All-America Tournament and the Rolex Midwest Regional.
Senior John Jay O'Brien was a versatile member of the team as O'Brien played in three different singles positions last season. O'Brien played at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 during the dual match season and had a 18-6 dual match record and was 27-10 on the season. Simme was slowed during the fall season by a foot injury which required surgery and only played in five singles matches. Simme played singles in 25 dual matches last season with most of the action at No. 3 singles and won eight of his last 11 matches at that spot. In a 5-2 loss to Duke on March 23, Simme defeated No. 61 Sven Koehler by a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 score.
With the injury to Simme, Bayliss had to scramble with his lineup and often it left the No. 6 spot bare. That position was held down by Pun with fellow seniors Andy Chmura and Brian Harris. Entering last season, Chmura had not appeared in a dual match for the Irish, but in '95-'96, he had a 10-0 record, including a win at No. 6 singles against Miami, his first career dual match action. Harris had played singles in just three dual matches entering the season and was 6-3 in dual match action in '95-'96 and had an overall record of 13-5 on the year. Pun was 10-8 at No. 6 last season, was 4-2 in No. 5 singles and had an overall mark of 18-14 in singles.
Freshman Brian Patterson made an immediate impact on the Irish program as he played in all 29 dual matches with an overall mark of 20-17 in singles this year. Patterson saw most of his action at No. 4 singles and also won a match at No. 5. In the fall, Patterson won the B flight at the Tar Heel Invitational and advanced to the round of 32 at the Rolex Midwest Championship.