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Men’s Tennis: Irish place fourth in Big East

Kate Grabarek | Monday, April 20, 2009

After a win over Georgetown to start the Big East championships, hopes were high for the Irish. But after consecutive losses to South Florida and Louisville, Notre Dame finished fourth in the conference.

No. 28 Notre Dame lost a hard-fought match against South Florida, each singles matches going to three sets.

“[South Florida] beat top-25 teams Miami and Florida State this season when they played here in Tampa,” head coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Lucas Jovita and Wael Kilani at the top of their lineup are two very strong baseliners who will make you earn every point.”

The No. 31 doubles team of senior Brett Helgeson and sophomore Tyler Davis were able to give the Irish a 1-0 lead with an 8-2 victory over Jovita and Thomas Estrada.

At No. 2 doubles sophomore Stephen Havens and freshman Casey Watt fell to Mahmoud Hamed and Jammal Adderley by a score of 8-4.

“Casey Watt has been a real force for us this year,” Bayliss said. “His combination of speed, aggressive ground strokes, and competitiveness separate him from most players.”

Senior Santiago Montoya and sophomore Dan Stahl lost the doubles point for the Irish, falling at No. 3 doubles by a score of 8-5.

Estrada was able to defeat Davis at No. 6 singles to give the Bulls a 2-0 advantage.

Watt, though, pulled out a third-set singles win over Hamed by a score of 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to keep the match alive, and earn his team-leading 17th victory of the season.

Adderley defeated Stahl at No. 4 singles to earn the victory for South Florida and clinch them a spot in the finals Saturday.

After the loss, the Irish faced No. 23 Louisville for third place Saturday.

“While they beat us in Louisville last week, the match was within our grasp,” Bayliss said. “We found ourselves at 5-5 in the tiebreaker to win the doubles point at No. 1 and we led 4-3 in the third set at No. 1 singles.”

The Irish were looking to avenge a 4-3 loss against Louisville from earlier in the season, but again fell just short in their comeback bid losing 4-3 again.

Again, Helgeson and Davis gave the Irish an early 1-0 advantage at No. 1 doubles, but Notre Dame couldn’t capitalize.

At No. 3 doubles Austen Childs and Sumit-Prakash Gupta tied the doubles point at 1-1 when they defeated Montoya and Stahl by a score of 8-3.

At No. 2, Havens and Watt battled to take an 8-7 lead late but fell to the Cardinals duo of Alejandro Calligari and Robert Rotaru in a tiebreak where Louisville won 7-2.

The Cardinals jumped out in singles to a 3-0 lead with wins at No. 1 and 2 singles. No. 31 Childs defeated Helgeson 6-1, 6-2, while Havens fell No. 79 Viktor Maksimcuk 6-3, 6-1.

Davis earned Notre Dame’s first singles victory at No. 6 over Robert Hall 6-4, 6-3 to bring the match to 3-1.

Sophomore David Anderson won at No. 5 singles, while Watt earned his 18th win of the season at No. 4 singles to tie the match at three wins apiece.

Stahl fell to Caligari in three sets, though, to give the Cardinals the victory.

South Florida ended up winning the event, and the Irish will now await their NCAA first round opponent when draws are announced after the completion of all conference tournaments next weekend.