May 21, 2002
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -
Notre Dame senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), ranked 15th nationally in singles, was awarded one of the 16 seeds in the 2002 NCAA Men's Tennis Singles Championship when the bracket was announced Tuesday. The NCAA awarded No. 9-16 seeds to eight players, including Taborga, without differentiating particular seeds among the competitors. All players earning a seed in the NCAA Singles Championship garner All-America honors. The Irish senior will open play in the 64-competitor tournament of the best collegiate players in the country on Wednesday, taking on 22nd-ranked Marcin Matkowski of UCLA at 12:30 p.m.
Taborga and classmate Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) will be forced to play their way to doubles All-America honors as they were denied one of the eight seeds in the 2002 NCAA Men's Tennis Doubles Championship, despite holding a current national ranking of No. 5 and having been listed among the nation's top seven doubles teams in every set of rankings since December. Four doubles teams ranked below the Irish pair earned No. 5-8 seeds in the tournament. Smith and Taborga will open play on Thursday against the 42nd-ranked squad of Matthias Mathaes and Prakash Venkataraman of Rice. Live scoring of all matches throughout both tournaments will be available at www.und.com.
The pair can still earn All-America honors in one of two ways: 1) advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship 2) being listed in the national top 10 in the final set of Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, to be released following this tournament.
Taborga is 28-11 overall this season, including 19-5 at No. 1 singles after never playing the position prior to this season. He has posted 16 wins over players currently holding national rankings, including nine over competitors currently listed in the top 40. Taborga is the only player in the nation to have registered wins over the top-ranked and top-seeded teams in both the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. He topped defending NCAA singles and doubles champion Matias Boeker of Georgia 6-4, 6-2 earlier this season, accounting for one of only three losses suffered by the nation's top player this year.
Taborga is the fifth player in Notre Dame history to be a singles All-American. An Irish player has garnered the honor in four of the last five seasons, with 2000 graduate Ryan Sachire earning the distinction in 1998, '99 and 2000. Other Notre Dame players who earned singles All-America honors are Chuck Coleman (1993), Will Forsyth (1993) and David DiLucia (1990-92). Taborga is the ninth player in the program's history to earn a berth in the NCAA Singles Championship since the current format was adopted in 1977, while his invitation marks the 16th extended to Irish players.
The Irish senior is no stranger to a number of the other competitors in the NCAA Singles Championship. Overall, he has faced 22 of the other players in a total of 26 matches over his career. This spring, Taborga is 11-3 against NCAA singles qualifiers, including an eight-match winning streak from Feb. 8 through April 7. Prior to this spring, Taborga was just 1-9-2 against this year's field and his lone victory was over second-ranked K.J. Hippensteel of Stanford, who withdrew from the tournament.
Matkowski carries a 32-11 record into the singles tournament. He was ranked as high as No. 13 this season and knocked off former national No. 1 Al Garland of Pepperdine earlier this spring. A win over Matkowski would send Taborga into Thursday's second round against either #26 Oliver Maiberger of San Diego State or 56th-ranked Victor Romero from Tulane.
Smith and Taborga are in the midst of one of the most successful seasons of doubles in school history, holding a 31-12 mark. Their victory total marks the highest by a doubles team in a season in the Bob Bayliss era (1988-present). The pair is 16-8 in dual-match action and has defeated 10 ranked teams. The Irish have eight wins over top-30 teams, as well as three over teams currently listed in the national top five (#1 Matkowski/Rojer of UCLA, two against #4 Calkins/Delic of Illinois). Smith and Taborga are just the second doubles team in school history to be ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation, a spot they occupied earlier this spring. DiLucia and Coleman were ranked No. 1 in the nation for a time. Taborga (77-45) and Smith (76-51) are listed fourth and sixth, respectively, on the list of career doubles wins in the Bayliss era.
The Irish pair had a strong fall season that vaulted them from their No. 34 preseason ranking into the national top 10, where they have remained all spring. Smith and Taborga advanced through qualifying and posted a 6-1 mark (losing only to top-seeded Lipsky/Martin of Stanford) at the ITA All-American Championships en route to capturing the consolation title. The Irish team reached the semifinals in the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships, which helped them earn an at-large bid to the National Indoor Championships. In that tournament, Smith and Taborga defeated the current national No. 1, UCLA's Matkowski/Rojer, on their way to losing in a tiebreaker in the semifinals.
Taborga has qualified for each of the last three NCAA doubles championships, paired with classmate Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) for each of the last two. The Irish pair lost in the first round in both 2000 and 2001. Smith and Taborga are the 12th doubles team to qualify for the NCAA championships, all since 1991. Taborga and 1993 graduate Chuck Coleman are the only players in Notre Dame history to qualify for the NCAA doubles championships three times. The best result for a Notre Dame doubles team came in 1959, when Maxwell Brown and William Heinbecker fell to a Tulane team in three sets in the final, helping the Irish to a share of the national championship, along with the Green Wave.
Only once since the current format was adopted in 1977 has an Irish pair advanced beyond the round of 16 in the NCAAs -- Andy Zurcher and Todd Wilson fell in a tough three-set decision to USC's Wayne Black and Jon Leach in the semifinals of the 1994 NCAAs, held at the Courtney Tennis Center. That pair earned doubles All-America honors, as did Coleman and DiLucia in both 1991 and '92, marking the only three instances of Irish pairs garnering the distinction.
Taborga is 61-23 in combined play (singles & doubles), marking just the fifth time under Bayliss that an Irish player has won 60 matches in a season and the first since Michael Sprouse did it in 1995. Taborga also is just the fourth player in the Bayliss era to register 75 career wins in both singles and doubles, joining Andy Zurcher ('94), Ryan Simme ('97) and Brian Patterson ('99). He is 77-39 in singles and 77-45 in doubles.
The Irish pair has had 21 matches against 14 different NCAA doubles qualifiers this season. They have split the 20 completed matches.
Mathaes and Venkataraman are 19-11 this season, but have dropped four of their last five matches. A win Thursday would put the Irish into Friday's round of 16 against either 18th-ranked Matias Boeker and Bo Hodge of Georgia or the third seed, Oliver Maiberger and Ryan Redondo of San Diego State.
If Smith and Taborga earn All-America honors in doubles, the Bolivian would be just the second player in Notre Dame history to earn singles and doubles All-America honors in the same season. Five-time All-American DiLucia accomplished the feat in both 1991 and '92.
In other action from College Station, Texas, the University of Southern California completed a storybook run to the national title with a 4-1 victory over the top seed, top-ranked and defending national champion Georgia, on Tuesday evening in the final of the NCAA team championship. USC knocked off four top-five teams in as many days and single-handedly eliminated the tournament's top three seeds in the final three rounds of the championship. The national title was the 16th in S.C. school history and the fourth for head coach Dick Leach, who announced his retirement earlier this season and coached his last collegiate match on Tuesday.
Notre Dame defeated the national champion Trojans 5-2 in an exhibition match last fall in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. In that match, three USC players who earned NCAA Championship all-tournament honors suffered losses at the hands of Irish players. Talarico downed Daniel Langre 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5 at No. 4 singles, while Matthew Scott (Paris, France) defeated Ruben Torres 6-3, 6-4 at No. 5 and Taborga registered a 7-6 (7-4), 6-7, 1-0 (11-9) win at No. 2 over the NCAA Championship Most Valuable Player, freshman Prakash Armitraj, who provided the clinching victory in USC's wins over third-seeded Illinois in the quarterfinals, second-seeded Tennessee in the semifinals and Georgia.