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MEN’S TENNIS: Young team to take on Spartans

Kate Gales | Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The 5-2 win over North-western this weekend was deceptively close. With strong performances at the top of the lineup, however, the No. 23 Irish pulled out a scrappy but solid victory over the Wildcats on Friday.

But there was no time for Notre Dame to relish the victory over its regional rival. The Irish hit the courts at the South Bend Racquet Club in order to prepare for a match in the foreign territory belonging to today’s opponent, Michigan State.

“Our guys practiced over the weekend,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “I think we’re ready to go.”

The team has compiled a 9-2 record this season behind the dependable play of a deep and talented lineup. Senior co-captain Brent D’Amico recently moved into the top spot in singles, and Bayliss is pleased with his performance as a leader on the courts.

“Brent D’Amico’s play has been better than it’s ever been,” Bayliss said. “He’s playing the best tennis he’s ever played for us.”

D’Amico has been bolstered by the play of sophomores Stephen Bass and Barry King, both nationally-ranked players. Freshman Sheeva Parbhu has held onto the fourth spot in singles, and Bayliss has seen strong performances from sophomores Ryan Keckley and Irackli Akhvlediani and juniors Eric Langenkamp and Patrick Buchanan while filling out the last two spots.

“At the beginning of the year we were concerned with winning in the top part of the lineup,” Bayliss said. “[Now] we’re not really afraid of people at the top.”

The team counted on the bottom of the singles lineup for crucial points, but also found salvation in doubles play.

“The doubles have been improving,” said Bayliss. “We didn’t get the doubles point against Northwestern – it may be important against Michigan State.”

Play in East Lansing will present a few specific problems for the Irish. The team arrived early and had an 8 p.m. practice time on Spartan courts Monday night.

“There are a couple of issues we’re concerned about with this match,” Bayliss said. “Michigan State’s improved; they have some freshmen that are good and they have a win over Arkansas which was ranked No. 19 at the time.”

The Spartans have proven they can win tough matches, and winning in East Lansing isn’t easy for visitors.

“Their courts are fast and at times it’s hard to pick up the ball there,” Bayliss said. “Adjusting to the speed and the lights in the background are all things we need to take care of.”

Bayliss thinks the doubles point will be crucial in the away match.

“When you’re on the road and everyone’s crowd is in your face, if you can quiet them down by winning doubles … that can really make a difference,” he said.

The teams will square off at 4 p.m. in East Lansing.