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ND Tennis: Irish set for weekend matches

Kate Gales | Friday, February 11, 2005

In any tennis match, serves are broken. In the scheme of things, it’s how a player bounces back from being broken that matters.

Despite dropping two matches to powerhouses Texas and Duke last weekend, the Irish are taking the setback in stride. After six straight wins to open the season, two losses can show what a team is made of-and if it’s set for the long run.

“It’s good,” coach Bobby Bayliss said of team morale. “The teams we lost to – Texas will be possibly a top-15 team this year … when it all shakes down, and Duke is a Top 10 team.”

The Irish swept their early schedule with wins over Toledo, Illinois State, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida State. At the time, UNC was ranked No. 18, and Bayliss expects the Seminoles to finish in the Top 20. This weekend, the Irish will take on Marquette and the University of Indianapolis.

The team worked on conditioning and competitive sets this week in order to bounce back from the losses.

“We’ve really intensified practice because we have just this one day [of matches] on Sunday and then we don’t play again until next Friday,” Bayliss said.

A deep lineup has allowed Bayliss some flexibility in both singles and doubles this season. The No. 1 spot has been in some contention, as both sophomore Stephen Bass and senior captain Brent D’Amico have seen time in the top position.

“The biggest thing is at the end of the fall, Stephen Bass had earned the right to play No. 1,” Bayliss said, citing the sophomore standout’s national ranking and outstanding fall record. “[But] it’s a tough load for somebody to go up and face the guys he’s had to face up there. … I have a lot of confidence in Stephen and I believe he can become a prime-time college tennis player.”

D’Amico also played well in the top position, Bayliss said.

“He’s held up and hopefully Stephen will get on track this week,” he said.

No. 112 Barry King registered the lone Irish point against Duke in the third spot, defeating No. 106 Stephen Amritaj. Sheeva Parbhu rounds out the top four for the men, as Irackli Akhvlediani, Ryan Keckley, Patrick Buchanan and Eric Langenkamp have rotated through No. 5 and No. 6.

Akhvlediani is back from an ankle sprain, and Bayliss expects him to play in this weekend’s lineup.

The doubles have seen success this season, with D’Amico and Keckley combining at No. 1 and Bass and King at No. 3. Parbhu and Langenkamp have seen the most success at No. 2, posting a 9-2 season record (6-2 in dual matches).

“Doubles has begun to solidify,” Bayliss said. “I think we can continue to improve there, I improve it to be a strength as the year goes on.”

Fans can expect two exciting matchups this weekend at the Eck Tennis Pavilion, as play against Marquette is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday and Indianapolis will take the courts against the Irish at 5:30 p.m.