Taborga upsets opponent during USTA/ITA tournies
By KATIE HUGHES
Assistant Sports Editor
There's nothing like shaking things up in the top-10 to prove you belong there.
The Irish competed for the first time since 1996 in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Louisville, Ky. last weekend, establishing beyond a doubt that they belong in the top 10 with three close matches against top-10 teams.
"We faced more top-10 teams this weekend than we usually face in a whole season," said senior Aaron Talarico.
The Irish started out the tournament by beating No. 7 Pepperdine 4-3 on Thursday. They won the doubles point but lost the first three singles matches. Casey Smith's win against No. 54 Calle Hansen decided the match after Matt Scott's 6-3, 6-3 win, and Luis Haddock-Morales' 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (8-6) victory for the Irish.
On Friday Notre Dame lost a tight match to No. 1-ranked Georgia. Taborga faced Matias Boeker, defending NCAA singles and doubles champion. The Bulldogs had won the doubles point despite an 8-6 win by senior Aaron Talarico and freshman Brent D'Amico, and Taborga went into his match with the Irish trailing 2-0.
"I don't think Georgia expected such a tough match," said Talarico. "We were a tiebreaker in doubles away from making that match."
No. 95 ranked Taborga upset Boeker, taking the match 6-4, 6-2.
"I think I played probably the best tennis I've played at Notre Dame," said Taborga. "I've struggled years before and it's been great to feel the confidence a win gives you. Tennis is a game you have to play with a lot of confidence."
Sophomore Matt Scott followed up Taborga"s victory with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 5, improving his record to 17-2 this season, but sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales" close 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 loss at No. 4 decided the match.
"Matt Scott has been so reliable," said Taborga.
"If you look at the score against Georgia, it says 4-2, but it was much closer than that," said Taborga. "If we can beat Georgia we can beat any team."
Taborga's upset victory was not his first experience defying the mighty tennis rankings. Last year he upset Stanford's third-ranked K.J. Hippensteel, in the ITA All-American Championships.
"I hope I can build on this," said Taborga.
On Saturday the Irish faced No. 5 Mississippi and Talarico fought a marathon match against No. 51 Kristofer Stahlberg. Stahlberg won 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 after battling with Talarico for three hours. Their match was the only one still going for the last 45 minutes, as Stahlberg started shoving salt into his mouth to try to fight at attack of muscle cramping.
"[Stahlberg] reminded me of myself," said Talarico. "He just didn"t quit. Everything I had he had an answer for. It came to crunch time and I just didn"t pull it out."
The Irish had taken the doubles point with an 8-2 win at No. 3 by Talarico and D'Amico. Seniors James Malhame and Ashok Raju won 8-5 at No. 2.
Taborga earned his second upset singles victory of the weekend when he beat 21st-ranked Alex Hartman 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 at No. 1.
Paul Ciorascu won a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Haddock-Morales at No. 4 and Catalin Gard defeated Smith 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3, giving the Rebels a 3-2 lead. Sophomore Matthew Scott tied the match and improved to 10-0 in dual matches with a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3 win at No. 5, before the Stahlberg-Talarico endurance contest decided the match.
"We had two losses, but we felt better about our team than we did going in. We know we belong, that we are a top-10 team now," said Talarico. "Everyone knows it, and we definitely showed it."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, February 12, 2002