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Men’s Tennis: ND set to duel with Cavaliers

Kate Grabarek | Friday, January 25, 2008

Notre Dame has a chance to see how it stacks up against the toughest competition in the country Sunday when it hosts No. 1 Virginia at noon at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

“We will need to play our best match to have a chance,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “They have two new guys that I haven’t seen play yet, but they will go to Illinois on Friday, so we’ll know a little more about them [then].”

Virginia will field a strong lineup against the Irish. The Cavaliers’ top doubles team of Treat Huey and Somdev Devvarman is also No. 1 in the nation.

Notre Dame has played Virginia each of the last two years, but the Irish fell short both times. Last year, the Irish lost to the Cavaliers 6-1, and they fell 4-3 two years ago when Virginia was again ranked No. 1.

“We proved it can be done,” Bayliss said. “We’ve had them on the ropes the last couple of years, but our freshmen have never been under that kind of pressure. It will tell us a lot about our team to see how well they handle the pressure this weekend.”

Last weekend, the Irish played in a home doubleheader. In the opening match, Notre Dame defeated talented Penn State 5-2. It capped off the day with a 7-0 win over Toledo.

Coming through for the Irish was the doubles team of senior Sheeva Parbhu and junior Brett Helgeson, winning both of their matches.

“They return as well as anyone in the country, and have made great improvements at net,” Bayliss said.

While Parbhu and Helgeson make the obvious splash at the top of the lineup, a quieter force has been brewing at No. 2 doubles: senior Andrew Roth and freshman Stephen Havens. Roth is putting his game together after injuries plagued his early years at Notre Dame.

Roth has a determined work ethic, Bayliss said, and has become more accountable – along with being an emotional sparkplug.

Although the Irish came out with wins in their opening matches, they found some things they need to work on as well.

“Stephen Havens needs to stay in longer rallies,” Bayliss said. “[Freshman] David Anderson is still working on attacking with his forehand more often. He is also working on coming to net more.”

While these players are gearing up to face Virginia, one player isn’t quite ready to see action. Freshman Matt Johnson is still sidelined because of a strained pectoral muscle. He has begun serving this week but will take more time to get back into playing shape, Bayliss said.