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Men’s Tennis: Young squad returns home

Kate Grabarek | Friday, February 8, 2008

After taking down No. 15 Duke 4-3 on the road last Sunday, the No. 9 Irish return home to host No. 28 Wisconsin and Southern Methodist this weekend.

“It is tremendously empowering to know you can beat a good team,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Tobacco road has not been kind to us recently, although we have a better record against them there, then we do here.”

Notre Dame is a young team, but it hasn’t shown up too much in their match scores.

“We are a little ahead of my expectations,” Bayliss said. “It’s early and we are young, hopefully later we can cease our dialogue with the Gerber Company.”

Last year the Irish beat the Badgers 4-0 in the Round of 32 of the 2007 NCAA Tournament held at Notre Dame.

“The doubles was very contested, and all of the unfinished matches ended in a tiebreaker,” Bayliss said. “It was good that we won.”

Wisconsin is led by German sophomore Moritz Baumann.

The Badgers strength rests in their experience, with three seniors and just two freshmen.

“Baumann is a lefty, and a great all court player,” Bayliss said. “They are more experienced than we are.”

The Irish and Southern Methodist University failed to meet last year in April as the match was cancelled due to cold weather conditions.

The Mustangs (4-1) have been successful in the early weeks of the season. The team’s only loss came on Jan. 26 when it dropped the contest 5-2 to No. 7 Texas.

Notre Dame topped the Mustangs 5-2 when the two squads last faced of two years ago. Then sophomore Sheeva Parbhu defeated Alex Skrypko in a tiebreaker 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5). Now senior Skrypko is just one of four seniors on the experienced Mustang squad.

“Our record so far has been determined by a lot of close matches,” Bayliss said. “Duke, Michigan State and Penn State all could have gone the other way. It’s showing that our young guys don’t feel as much pressure in tough situations.”

The Irish have been struggling lately in the doubles positions. Losing the doubles points puts the Irish in an early hole.

“We try to emphasize to the singles players that we should have won the doubles point,” Bayliss said. “We served for the match twice at two doubles against Duke. We want to put ourselves in a position to win at all times, in both singles and doubles.”

Junior Santiago Montoya has stepped up big for the Irish at the No. 3 doubles position, along with freshman Tyler Davis. Bayliss said that Montoya has become more stable on his returns, in addition to having always been solid at net. Bayliss also said Montoya has taken a lot of the coach’s constructive criticism to heart and is very coachable.

Assistant coach Ryan Sacchire noted that Davis competes like a “lion” and compliments Montoya well on court.

Winning the doubles point, and competing well will be key for the Irish in both matches this weekend. The first serve is set for noon Saturday against Wisconsin at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.