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Men’s Tennis: ND, MSU will fight to rebound

Kate Grabarek | Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Both Notre Dame and Michigan State have a chance to rebound after losses when the Spartans visit the Irish today at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, Notre Dame lost to No. 1 Virginia, and Michigan State lost to Vanderbilt. Still, the Spartans are off to one of their best starts, heading into the contest against the Irish with a record of 5-1.

“They came very close to beating Vanderbilt this past weekend,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

Michigan State sophomore Tyler Sauerbrey had a 5-4 lead in the third set of what turned out to be the deciding point of the Vanderbilt match, but lost the set 7-5, and Vanderbilt claimed victory.

“They served for the match at 5-4 but couldn’t hang on to the lead,” Bayliss said. “We have beat them soundly in the past, but we’re young and they returned just about everybody.”

With only three freshmen on the Michigan State roster, the Spartans boast more experience than the Irish. Bayliss thinks that it will be a good test for the young Irish squad, which features six freshmen.

“We will need to win the doubles point,” Bayliss said. “They are very strong at one and two doubles, and we will need to win the matches that we have a slight advantage in.”

Michigan State senior Nick Rinks is 6-0 and has defeated all his opponents in straight sets. In the fall, Rinks teamed up with junior Alex Forger to defeat Irish freshmen Stephen Havens and Tyler Davis at the Tom Fallon Invitational.

“Rinks is able to beat just about anybody in the country,” Bayliss said. “We normally rely very heavily on our top two singles spots, but we can’t count on those tomorrow. Rinks split sets with Stephen Bass two years ago.”

Against Virginia, Notre Dame’s own senior leader, Sheeva Parbhu, put his name in an elite group, easily handling the Cavaliers’ Dominic Inglot Sunday. Inglot was ranked No. 3 in the country before the match, making him the highest-ranked player Parbhu has defeated.

“Sheeva was a lot quicker than Inglot,” assistant coach Ryan Sachire said. “If Inglot doesn’t overpower you, he’s out of his game plan.”

Parbhu played relentless tennis and stayed mentally tough in every point. He played quality points, and made Inglot grind out the points, Sachire said.

Havens has been another bright spot for the Irish this year. He earned the other singles point for the Irish Sunday, winning his match in three sets.

“Havens made a lot of extra balls,” Sachire said. “Both players were fairly close in ability level, and that was apparent in the last two sets.”

Sachire also said that Havens was conservative when on defense but finished points well.

The Spartans and Irish know each other well. Michigan State head coach Gene Orlando has been coaching there for 17 years, and Bayliss has been at Notre Dame for 20. Bayliss and the Irish have won 18 in a row over the Spartans. The head-to-head meetings date back to 1926.