Mens Tennis: Irish still searching for 1st win of the season
By: JOE LINDSLEY
For the sake of both their record and their morale, the winless Irish could really use a win today.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, the Florida State team that visits the Eck Tennis Pavilion today is not as strong as the second-ranked Illinois team that handed Notre Dame a 6-1 loss Wednesday.
But the young Irish squad has also dropped dual-matches against Ohio State and Indiana. Notre Dame has not started a season 0-3 since 1988.
Today, the Irish feel they need to find an intensity that seems to have been lacking in their play so far this spring.
"We have to play with intensity and compete as hard as we can," junior tri-captain Luis Haddock said. "I think we had a lot of people who were nervous and who were shocked at what was going on."
Inexperience has also played a key role in the Notre Dame's performance this season. Many of the current players seeing playing time experienced little or no time on the courts last year.
Nevertheless, several members of the team have come close to winning their matches.
But fewer have been able to convert close matches into victories.
Against Illinois on Wednesday, junior Matt Scott, ranked 119th nationally, put up a fight against No. 2 Amer Delic, but Scott failed to triumph. Freshman Patrick Buchanan had to deal with a player ranked 42nd nationally, and No. 72 Haddock was upset by unranked Rajeev Ram.
The Irish do have reserves that may see playing time if the current players continue to struggle, but those freshman reserves will, of course, still lack the experience which Notre Dame needs.
A win over the Seminoles would serve as an important confidence boost for the Irish, and perhaps today is a prime opportunity for the Irish to turn their season around early.
"[Florida State] is a very good team," Haddock said. "They're not as good as Illinois. It will be a good match. We need to play well and we need to win. We just have to play hard."
Today's match is a designated Gold Game, in hopes of encouraging large numbers of students and other fans to show their support by coming to the match. For the Irish, having a good home crowd may help give them a morale boost needed in order to win a critical match that could itself serve as a morale boost for the season.
"It's still the beginning of the season," Haddock said. "[But] morale-wise, [a victory] will be very important."
All Sports Stories for Friday, January 31, 2003