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Men’s Tennis: Squad returns to Eck for big weekend series

Joe Meixell | Friday, February 10, 2006

There’s no place like home for the Irish.

After a grueling stretch of three road matches in four days, the team returns to its home turf at the Eck Tennis Pavilion for three matches this weekend.

The Irish are 2-4 this season – with three losses coming to top-10 teams – but 1-0 at home after notching a 7-0 shutout of William & Mary on Jan. 29.

The team held optional practices on Wednesday and Thursday after a 7-0 loss to Illinois on the road Tuesday night.

“I’m sure [resting at home has] helped,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Just physically, the travel and the three matches in four days being in and out of airports – I’m sure it’s taken a toll physically and probably emotionally on everybody.”

The team will practice today before Saturday’s match against Purdue and Sunday’s doubleheader with Wisconsin and Bradley.

“It’s been good to take a step back and get a little rest and start fresh,” Bayliss said. “With matches Saturday and Sunday, we certainly didn’t want to work them very hard physically anyways and I think that is the right thing to do.”

Three of Notre Dame’s four losses have been 4-3 heartbreakers, and two came against top-10 teams. All four were road matches.

However, the close losses once were blowouts. Bayliss said that the competitiveness of the team is a sign of how far the team has come.

“Two years ago when we played Duke at Duke, it was a very one-sided,” he said. “Just a year ago here on our courts, it was 6-1, and this year at Duke we found ourselves in position to win the match. One way to look at it is to realize the progress that’s been made and feel good about it.”

The Irish are young, especially at the top of the lineup, with junior Stephen Bass and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu splitting time at the No. 1 and 2 positions. Barry King, a junior, has been successful at the No. 3 spot, and Brett Helgeson, a freshman, rounds out the top-four.

Ryan Keckley has been consistent at No. 5, going 5-1 so far in the dual match season.

No. 6 has seen a number of players rotate in and out of the position, including Irackli Akhvlediani, who is still recovering from an injury sustained over Christmas break.

The team’s ability to rotate players-particularly at the bottom of the lineup – should help for the three matches this weekend, Bayliss said.

“I think with three matches in two days, one of the [key points is the ability to] rotate one of the players in who haven’t been playing regularly, giving them a little more playing time to make sure no one is worn out or gets injured,” Bayliss said. “I think we’re competitive enough at the bottom of our lineup … that there’s not a big drop off.”

The Irish take the courts against the Boilermakers at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Sunday will feature a doubleheader, with Wisconsin at noon and Bradley at 5 p.m.

“We have to go one step further, but to feel like we’re not making progress is wrong,” Bayliss said. “We are.”