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Irish await Ohio State

Rama Gottumukkala | Wednesday, April 13, 2005

At first glance, Notre Dame’s final regular-season match against No. 30 Ohio State seems like a welcome change from facing the likes of No. 2 Virginia, No. 4 Illinois and No. 4 Duke.But Irish coach Bobby Bayliss is quick to point out the dangerous Buckeye team lurking behind that unassuming ranking.”They’re a very good team – quarterfinalists in last year’s NCAAs and returning five of six starters,” Bayliss said. “They were ranked No. 11 or 12 in the beginning of the year, and they’ve lost some 4-3 matches to teams that have ended up being pretty good. I would think that they’re the second best team in the Big Ten to Illinois, who’s ranked No. 4. I expect we’ll have our hands full, but it’s not a match that we won’t have a chance to win.”The No. 29 Irish (16-6) have had success against Big Ten opponents this season. With a solid 6-1 record against Big Ten foes thus far, Notre Dame faces one final challenge from that conference later today in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State (13-6) has faced a tough schedule this season. All six of their losses have come at the hands of top-20 opponents. With two consecutive losses to the Buckeyes in their last two meetings, the Irish have some added motivation to swing the series momentum back in their favor.”The challenge is that they are clearly a very experienced team,” Bayliss said. “Number one, they play great doubles, and they’re a thoroughly prepared team. Ty Tucker, their coach, does a great job of getting them to play, so I know they’ll be excited to play us.”The primary challenge for the Irish will be trying to get on the board early. Ohio State boasts the No. 1 doubles team in the nation – juniors Scott Green and Ross Wilson. The Buckeyes have shuffled their doubles lineup this year, moving one of their top doubles players last year – Joey Atas – to the No. 3 team.”What they’ve done is shifted some of their personnel around,” Bayliss said. “Scott Green and Ross Wilson at No. 1 have won the National Indoors and the Fall All-American – two-thirds of the college triple crown [in doubles]. By moving Joey down to No. 3, that gives them a lot of balance.”This move echoes a similar strategy employed by the Irish in the past month. Since completely reshuffling their doubles lineup, the Irish have won the doubles point for the last three matches. Prior to this string of doubles wins, the team had dropped its last four matches.”We’re hoping that we can keep that up,” Bayliss said. “We’ve done pretty well at No. 3 doubles since we changed our personnel around. We still feel that Brent [D’Amico] and Eric [Langenkamp] are our most talented team, yet they haven’t clicked. So maybe this is the day they turn it around. The key for us getting a great effort at No. 1 doubles and keeping the balance we’ve had at No. 2 and No. 3.”In their last match against Ball State, the Irish thrived on great singles play. The team got strong straight-set wins in five of the six singles matches. Balancing solid play in both the singles and doubles matches should be the key for the Irish in today’s match. “I just think that anytime you have a chance to play a team that was [in the] final eight last year and returns five of six starters, you’ve got to be excited about the opportunity in front of you,” Bayliss said.The Irish will try to capitalize on that opportunity as they close out their regular-season schedule on the road against the Buckeyes. Game time is set for 4 p.m.