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Men’s Tennis: Irish head to Harvard Invite

Kate Grabarek | Friday, October 9, 2009

After having a couple weeks off for practice, Notre Dame will head back to the courts this weekend at the Harvard Invitational.

The Irish will face a top 15 squad a year ago in Alabama, a top 25 squad a year ago in Minnesota, and the best of the Ivy League schools, Harvard, at the Invitational.

“The format is ‘hidden dual’ and will give our guys a chance to compete with teams that are usually factors in the NCAA tournament,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

The Irish are working on being more cohesive in doubles and finding the right combinations to produce more wins to earn the crucial doubles point, as well as working on being more consistent from the back of the court, Bayliss said.

Notre Dame is coming off a strong showing at the Illini Invitational in late September that showed some of the team’s promise in the singles lineup.

Sophomore Casey Watt stepped up big for the Irish, earning three wins in the tournament and proved he is a front runner to take over the number one singles spot this year.

“Casey played very well in most of his matches,” Bayliss said. “He served consistently at close to 120 m.p.h. in his match against Christian Blocker of Miami and really hit some big ground strokes as well.

“Against Connor Roth (Illinois) he competed as hard as I have ever seen him, ripping winners from both sides off the ground. He fought off match points and finished with an unreturnable forehand. If he learns to finish better at the net and defend better with his slice backhand he can really move up and enhance our chances to become an elite team this year,” Bayliss said.

The Irish coaching staff has seen improvement in many of their players already this fall including freshman Blas Moros.

Bayliss said Moros has impressed him with his ability to compact his swing on the forehand side and really attack off the ground.

Overcoming the young group of guys that the team has will be a challenge for Bayliss, while many have much varsity experience Bayliss said that many of them have only have low levels of varsity player under their belts.

“Many of our guys are locating their second serves better,” Bayliss said. “I see improvement each week and that is what motivates me most – seeing the proverbial ‘ugly duckling’ become a swan.”

The Irish will open play today in Cambridge, Mass.