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Men’s Tennis: Tough task on tap for weekend

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, March 30, 2007

Notre Dame has its plate full this weekend.

The Irish are slated to take on No. 2 Ohio State today in Columbus and No. 8 Illinois at home Sunday.

Notre Dame travels to Columbus well aware of the competition that awaits, Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

Ohio State’s strength is in numbers. Four of the six singles players for Ohio State are ranked in the top 75 nationally, and the team boasts two ranked doubles teams, as well.

Irish senior Stephen Bass likely will take on national No. 10 Steven Moneke.

Moneke is no stranger to the Irish. Moneke defeated Bass 7-5, 6-3 in the ITA National Indoor semifinals in November. The sophomore Buckeye had defeated Bass in the ITA Midwest Regional Championships just two weeks prior.

Notre Dame will also face No. 25 Bryan Koniecko, No. 34 Devin Mullings and No. 75 Chris Klingemann in singles play.

“[Moneke] has terrific ground strokes,” Bayliss said. “He’s very consistent, and he just never beats himself. He gets stronger the longer the point goes on and you have to hurt him to beat him.”

But singles action is not the Buckeyes’ only strength on the courts. The No. 7 Irish duo of Sheeva Parbhu and Ryan Keckley are likely to face off against No. 16 Mullings and Klingemann. No. 82 Koniecko and Moneke will challenge Irish sophomore Brett Helgeson and senior Barry King at the No. 2 position.

“The Ohio State match is certainly one that’s been on both teams’ calendars the whole year,” Bayliss said.

There is a long history between the two teams. They last faced off last February when then-No. 26 Notre Dame defeated the previously undefeated Buckeyes 5-2. Bass knocked off Mullings at No. 1 singles and Parbhu clinched the upset for the Irish with a win over Koniecko.

“We know their people well and there is a lot of mutual respect between both programs,” Bayliss said.

Both the Irish and the Buckeyes enter the match after blanking their most recent opponents. Notre Dame cruised past Michigan State Wednesday and Ohio State polished off No. 23 Minnesota Sunday.

Notre Dame heads back to South Bend after tonight’s match to take on Illinois.

Notre Dame understands the challenges Illinois, the 2003 NCAA Champions, will present. Bayliss noted that the top five players for the Fighting Illini are all strong and powerful servers. No. 6 Kevin Anderson will likely challenge Bass at the No. 1 position.

“[Anderson] is a big strong guy with a huge serve and big groundstrokes,” Bayliss said. “He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses.”

Despite the challenges ahead, Bayliss said the team plans on sticking to the game it has been playing all season long en route to 17-3 record.