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Men’s Tennis: Irish net fifth straight win

Chris Michalski | Friday, February 20, 2009

With a come-from-behind singles victory by freshman Niall Fitzgerald, No. 25 Notre Dame knocked off previously undefeated Northwestern University yesterday with a hard-fought 4-3 victory. The win marks the fifth straight Irish victory, bringing their overall record to 6-4.

The match began with Steven Havens and Casey Watt falling to Northwestern’s Alex Sanborn and Joshua Graves 8-2 in second doubles. The 13th-ranked doubles team of Brett Helgeson and Tyler Davis then won first doubles followed by a third doubles win by Niall Fitzgerald and Matt Johnson. The win gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead early in the meet.

Freshman Casey Watt tacked on a second point with a win at fourth singles. Northwestern’s Joshua Graves kept it close, winning No. 6 singles over Notre Dame’s freshman Samuel Keeton.

The teams went back and forth once more with No. 122 Daniel Stahl winning at third singles followed by a three-set Northwestern win at second singles. No. 18 Brett Helgeson then ended his personal three-match singles win streak by dropping a three-set match to the Wildcats’ Marc Dwyer.

With the score deadlocked at three, Niall Fitzgerald pulled through and ensured the victory for the Irish. After dropping the first set 1-6, Fitzgerald came back to win the second and third sets 6-2 and 7-5, respectively. The win is his third straight at singles.

The schedule does not get any easier for the Irish as they next to travel to Columbus to face Ohio State. The No. 3 Buckeyes are currently 9-1 and coming off a victory over UCLA. The Buckeyes have a number of skilled tennis players. Their top-three have all been ranked in the top-five in the country at some point in their careers. It will be a major challenge for the Irish, as coach Bobby Bayliss considers them the “odds-on favorite to win this year’s NCAA tournament.”

First serve is noon on Sunday.