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Men’s Tennis: Undefeated spring home record on the line

Kate Gales | Friday, April 7, 2006

Notre Dame returns to action after a two-week layoff and hopes to preserve its flawless home record against Southern Methodist Sunday at 1 p.m.

The No. 18 Irish are 6-0 at home this spring and host No. 60 SMU in their penultimate match of the season.

Notre Dame is 18-7 on the season while playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country. The final matches of the spring will have important ramifications in seeding for the NCAA tournament.

“We lost last year at SMU so we’re just looking to take it one match at a time and win out the rest of the season,” Irish senior captain Patrick Buchanan said.

Southern Methodist has been a close match for Notre Dame in the past.

“The tradition in this series – we’ve lost at SMU and beaten them here,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said. “The matches have all been good. Two years ago we beat them here but we won every three-set match and I think that’s what it’s going to take this year.”

Although the Irish are ranked higher than the Mustangs, no one is looking past the match.

“It looks like they’re peaking at the right time,” Bayliss said. “They’re very well coached, they play great doubles – they always have.”

The singles players at SMU are also formidable.

“They’ve been around the block,” Bayliss said. “They have a couple of Swedish players that have big serves and really big forehands. We just got a little bit overpowered last year so we’re ready for that. We’ll expect a very close match.”

Notre Dame last played in Texas March 25 and 26, losing a 6-1 match at Texas and a 5-1 decision at Texas A&M.

Before the road trip, the Irish had played in the finals of the Blue-Gray National Classic, losing 4-2 to Virginia Commonwealth University to take first runner-up in the tournament and ending an 11-match winning streak.

The two-week hiatus was unusual for the team, which has played multiple matches most weeks since the season started.

However, the time off was good for resting up and regaining long-term focus.

“At the beginning of the season we had a tough set of matches – we had trouble closing out matches,” Buchanan said. “I think that’s really made us a lot tougher.”

Notre Dame is particularly deep in singles, with junior Stephen Bass, sophomore Sheeva Parbhu, freshman Brett Helgeson and junior Ryan Keckley in the top four in the singles lineup.

“I hope theres a sense of urgency that we have to max our matches at the end of the year,” Bayliss said. “Certainly the seniors want to go out on a strong note and we want that for them.”