March 15, 2006
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame men's tennis team is the No. 2 seed in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic, it was revealed last night. The Irish - winners of eight in a row - are the second-highest-ranked squad in the 19-team draw, behind only BIG EAST Conference rival and top-seeded and 12th-ranked Louisville. Notre Dame will open play on Thursday at Noon (EST) against #72 William & Mary (8-9) at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center.
The Irish are the No. 2 seed in the event for the second consecutive year, but were upset by Boise State in the quarterfinals in 2005. Thursday will be the second time ND and the Tribe have hooked up this season, as the Irish won 7-0 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion on Jan. 29. It will be the second year in a row that Notre Dame and William & Mary will play in the opening round of the Blue-Gray. In 2005, current Irish junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) won a three-set affair against Colin O'Brien in the final match remaining for a 4-3 ND victory.
A win would send the Irish into the quarterfinals for the 15th time in 16 tournament appearances. Notre Dame would play at 2:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday against either #33 South Alabama or #56 Fresno State. The Jaguars are the highest-ranked team not to receive one of the four seeds (#26 Virginia Commonwealth and #32 Boise State were the final two seeds). Notre Dame and South Alabama have met just once previously, and the Jaguars won 4-2 in the final of the 1997 Blue-Gray. The Irish beat the Bulldogs 4-2 in the 2001 final.
Notre Dame's half of the draw appears to be the tougher one, as all nine schools in it are nationally-ranked (two in the top half are unranked), and it has four of the six highest-ranked squads in the field. Among the possible semifinal opponents (Saturday at Noon) are the fourth-seeded Broncos and #36 Middle Tennessee State (a team Notre Dame has never played). Regardless of results, Notre Dame will play matches on Friday and Saturday, but only the teams in the championship match compete on Sunday (1 p.m. start).
Notre Dame is making its 15th consecutive appearance in the Blue-Gray Classic, having compiled a 31-19 (.620) overall mark, reaching the title match on five occasions. The Irish won the tournament in 1993 and 2001 and are looking for their third championship this year, a feat accomplished by just one other school (USC - 1987, '88, '91).
For more information and complete results of all matches in the tournament, see bluegraytennis.com.