July 12, 2013
EDITOR'S NOTE: During the month of July, UND.com and Fighting Irish Digital Media are featuring a multimedia series entitled "Irish in the ACC," giving Notre Dame fans a sneak peek at some of what they can expect in the coming days, weeks and years as a member of the ACC through the eyes of each of the various Fighting Irish sports that will compete in the conference. Today, we take a look at the Notre Dame men's and women's tennis teams, which enjoyed tremendous success in the BIG EAST and will seek to reach even greater heights in one of the nation's elite tennis conferences, the ACC.
by Russell Dorn and Tony Jones, Athletic Media Relations Assistants
After combining to win 22 BIG EAST Conference Championships since joining the league prior to the 1996 season, Notre Dame's men's and women's tennis teams are joining a highly-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference that has secured three NCAA Championships (two women's, one men's) since 2007. In 2013 alone, 10 women's teams and nine men's squads ended the year ranked in the ITA National Rankings, highlighted by NCAA men's champion Virginia (No. 1) and NCAA women's quarterfinalist North Carolina (No. 4). Both Notre Dame squads won the BIG EAST Championship before qualifying for the NCAA Championship, with the women advancing to the second round while the men fell in the opening round.
Legendary programs, players and coaches have come through the ACC since the league began in 1954. In that first year, North Carolina won the team championship under the direction of head coach John Kenfield. What followed was an unprecedented run that saw the Tar Heels win or share 22 ACC titles in the league's first 25 seasons. Overall, UNC leads the conference with 25 titles, including 23 outright crowns. Duke is next on the list with 12, followed by Clemson with 11. Virginia has been the dominant team of late, winning nine of the last 11 titles, including seven in a row since the 2007 season. The 2013 version of the Cavaliers also became the first ACC men's squad to take home the NCAA Championship as they capped a perfect 30-0 season with a 4-3 win over No. 1 UCLA.
In the NCAA Championship, 11 league teams have qualified an impressive 170 times, led by 26 berths from Miami. Clemson and Duke both have qualified 23 times, while North Carolina has 22. Virginia has 15 appearances with Florida State and Georgia Tech just behind with 14. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are the only other schools in the league with 10 or more appearances as they each have 13 showings in the NCAA field. Notre Dame will fit right in as it has been to the NCAA Championship 22 times since 1990 and 42 times when factoring in the previous format (individual wins that counted to the team score) that was in place until 1977.
Besides Virginia's title in 2013, the Cavaliers made the NCAA semifinals in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and the finals in 2011 and 2012. Before joining the ACC, Miami finished in the top four 12 times from 1955 to 1976, including a runner-up showing in 1965 and 1975.
Virginia also has had a string of NCAA singles and doubles champions in recent years, including 2007 and 2008 singles champion Somdev Devvarman. Three doubles championships have followed including Dominic Inglot and Michael Shabaz in 2009, Drew Courtney and Shabaz in 2010 and Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger in 2013. Jenkins just missed out on the NCAA tennis "triple crown" (team championship, singles and doubles championship), losing in the finals of the NCAA singles championship.
The Irish have had ups and downs against ACC competition as they are just below .500 with a 47-52 record. Notre Dame does have a 7-2 mark against Florida State, a 5-2 record over Virginia Tech and perfect records over Boston College (2-0), N.C. State (2-0) and Wake Forest (3-0). Conversely, traditional powers Duke (7-19) and Virginia (1-7) have posed the most trouble for Notre Dame, along with Miami (8-10) and North Carolina (7-9). The Irish will play Clemson and Georgia Tech for the first time this season, while fellow ACC newcomers Syracuse and Pittsburgh don't have men's tennis programs.
Moving to the ACC will provide the Irish a chance to renew their long-standing rivalry with Miami. Before the Hurricanes left the BIG EAST for the ACC in 2005, the two squads met in the BIG EAST championship match eight straight years from 1996-2003. The Irish won in 1996, 1999 and 2002 while the Hurricanes took the crown in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. In 2003 the championship was canceled due to rain with the Irish leading on the Hurricanes' home courts.
The Irish also will get to renew a mini-rivalry with Virginia Tech, which Notre Dame beat 4-2 in the 2004 BIG EAST Championship before the Hokies left for the ACC.
Notre Dame's recently-retired ITA Hall of Fame head coach Bobby Bayliss (765 wins) would have entered the ACC as the winningest (active and all-time) coach in league history. Clemson's Chuck Kriese won 685 matches from 1976-2008, while North Carolina's Don Skakle had 418 from 1959-80. Active coaches with over 300 wins include North Carolina's Sam Paul (336) and Virginia's Brian Boland (333).
Notre Dame should fit right in with the rest of the ACC as it boasts a pair of co-national championships from 1944 and 1959 and 13 conference titles between the Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League and the BIG EAST, including a conference crown in its final year in the BIG EAST in 2013. Under new head coach Ryan Sachire, who was an All-American during his playing days at Notre Dame and an assistant coach on Bayliss' staff for seven seasons, the Irish have a bright future as they enter a new era.
The ACC has a rich women's tennis history dating back to the league's inaugural season of competition in 1977. Through 36 seasons of ACC play, Duke leads all teams with 17 conference championships, including an impressive 14 straight titles from 1988 to 2001. Clemson ranks second to the Blue Devils with eight ACC Championship victories, followed by North Carolina (6).
In the past nine seasons, Georgia Tech has emerged as a force within the league, claiming three straight ACC crowns from 2005 to 2007 and a fourth team championship during the 2010 campaign. The Yellow Jackets also became the first team in conference history to win a national championship, downing Pac-12 power UCLA 4-2 in the 2007 NCAA final in Athens, Ga. Duke gave the ACC its second NCAA title in three seasons in 2009, sweeping California 4-0 in the championship match to clinch the Blue Devils' first national championship.
Notre Dame has enjoyed success against most of the other ACC schools during its history, with a .500 or better dual match record against 11 conference members. The Irish have put together a 78-50-1 (.609) all-time mark against teams currently in the ACC, including a 77-46-1 (.625) ledger during the 25-year tenure of head coach Jay Louderback. Notre Dame has met each team in the league at least once in its history, previously crossing paths with Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech during the 18-year Irish run in the BIG EAST Conference.
Wake Forest was the first ACC dual match opponent Notre Dame ever faced, as the Demon Deacons got the best of the Irish 5-4 on March 14, 1983 in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Irish broke through in the win column against Boston College eight years later on March 25, 1991, downing the Eagles 5-2 inside the Eck Tennis Pavilion for the program's first win against a current ACC foe. In its most recent encounter with an ACC opponent, Notre Dame advanced in the 2013 NCAA Championship with a 4-1 first round victory over North Carolina State in Ann Arbor, Mich. The meeting was the first between the Irish and Wolfpack in each program's respective history.
Notre Dame has met ACC opponents on six occasions in NCAA Championship team competition, compiling a 3-3 cumulative record in those meetings. Prior to the triumph over North Carolina State in 2013, Notre Dame's most recent postseason victory over an ACC foe occurred in 2009, when the fifth-seeded Irish blanked No. 12 seed Clemson 4-0 in the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship.
That win was one of the signature victories in Notre Dame's run to the first of its back-to-back NCAA semifinals appearances (the first two "Final Four" trips in program history), as well as highlighting a string of four NCAA quarterfinals berths in five years (2006-10) for the Irish.
Two seasons earlier in 2007 round of 16 play, No. 6 seed Notre Dame pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in its postseason history, clawing back from a 3-2 deficit against No. 11 North Carolina on the strength of three-set victories by Brook Buck and Christian Thompson in the final two singles matches.
With her match tied at 1-all against North Carolina's Sanaz Marand, Buck fell behind 3-0 in the third and deciding set. After Marand extended the advantage to 5-3, Buck won the final four games of the frame to take the match 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, and square the team competition at 3-3. Thompson then completed the comeback, shaking off a 7-5 first-set defeat at the hands of No. 45 Katrina Tsang to earn a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Irish in the ACC series continues Monday with a look at the Notre Dame soccer programs.