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Men’s Tennis: ND faces major road test against Illini

Kate Grabarek | Thursday, February 28, 2008

Despite No. 12 Notre Dame’s recent victories, it will be tested again this weekend on the road by No. 9 Illinois.

The Irish are coming off a 7-0 win over Purdue last weekend at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

“We played very solid matches top to bottom [against Purdue],” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “I had my apprehensions about some matches, but we met the challenge.”

The Illini have a lofty ranking, but they are only 5-4 this season. They lost badly to No. 12 Florida last weekend, 6-1.

“They are the NCAA runner-up and also in the top-10,” Bayliss said. “They went to Florida and played a great match. They lost many three-setters.”

Four of the Illini’s singles matches went three sets, with the Illini dropping all but one of them.

Illinois has two strong players at the top of their lineup, similar to the Irish.

The Illini are led at No. 1 singles by national No. 13 senior Ryan Rowe. Rowe beat Irish junior Brett Helgeson in a close match last year, besting him 7-5 in the third set.

At No. 2 singles, Illinois has another dominating player in national No. 77 Ruben Gonzales. Bayliss said Irish senior Sheeva Parbhu has never faced Gonzales or Rowe.

In the Purdue match, Bayliss switched his No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams around.

“At the National Team Indoors I felt like we hit a wall with the doubles teams,” Bayliss said. “We looked at a lot of options. Freshmen David Anderson and Daniel Stahl are a good team.”

The change paid off for the Irish, who won the doubles point against the Boilermakers.

To accompany the doubles change, Bayliss has continued to rely on the duo of Parbhu and Helgeson to bear the brunt of the load at one doubles.

“They have done a great job all year,” Bayliss said. “It is important for Brett [Helgeson] to establish himself at the net. He is looking for the ball more up there. Sheeva [Parbhu] is also serving better.”

After facing Illinois, the Irish will return home for a few days and then head west to La Jolla, Calif., for the Pacific Coast doubles tournament, where they will get accustomed to outdoor play.

“We will work on our transition to the outdoors,” Bayliss said. “We will use those outdoor practice days to get more adopted and relearn how to develop points.”