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Men’s Tennis: Texas roundup: Squad to play Horns, Aggies

Joe Meixell | Friday, March 24, 2006

Some say everything’s bigger in Texas – and that includes challenges on the tennis court.

This weekend, the Irish travel to Austin to face No. 5 Texas on Saturday and then to College Station to take on No. 22 Texas A&M.

“I think I know them both very well,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “[Texas] beat us 4-3 here last year, and they have pretty much the same team back. They added one new player who’s playing in the lower half of the lineup, and they’re very talented.”

In addition, Texas’ Travis Helgeson, ranked No. 20 nationally, is the older brother of Irish freshman Brett Helgeson, who stands at No. 106 in the country.

Both the Longhorns and the Aggies beat No. 3 Illinois, which defeated the Irish 7-0 on Feb. 7.

The Irish are ranked No. 15 nationally and take a 15-4 record into Texas. They most recently played five matches over six days, which included an appearance in the finals of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic.

First on this week’s agenda was recovering from their grueling spring break. After taking Monday off, the team focused on fundamentals and doubles.

“Tuesday we actually focused really on just fundamentals off the ground – really driving the ball with our legs, hitting a lot of cross courts, getting back into a groove,” Bayliss said. “When you compete that much, little cracks and fissures start to show up in your game … you need that solid time to get the fundamentals back.”

The Irish will be forced to adjust to playing outdoors. Although spring break matches were all played outside, the team was unable to practice outdoors in South Bend.

“Hopefully, we’ll get to hit tomorrow evening in Austin when we get in and a little bit Saturday morning before the match, so it won’t be a difficult adjustment outdoors,” Bayliss said. “At least, I hope it won’t.”

Irish players have been gaining recognition in singles. In addition to Helgeson, Stephen Bass is No. 14, Sheeva Parbhu is No. 34 and Ryan Keckley is No. 115.

In doubles, Keckley is ranked with Eric Langenkamp at No. 36 and at No. 44 with Barry King. He is now paired with Parbhu, but the duo is unranked.

“He and Sheeva give us a good chance to win at No. 1,” said Bayliss, noting that it is unusual – but not unheard of – for one player to have multiple doubles rankings.

This weekend’s matches will be a good test for the Irish as they begin to close out their season. The team has three matches remaining before the Big East Tournament begins on April 20.

However, no one is overlooking the pair of Texas matches.

“Texas is for real – they’re a legit team,” Bayliss said. “They beat Virginia and Duke. They’re very good, and they beat Illinois, and A&M beat Illinois.”

The Irish take on the Longhorns at 1 p.m. in Austin and face the Aggies at 1:30 p.m. in College Station.