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Men’s Tennis: Experience, depth give Bayliss lineup options

Katelyn Grabarek | Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If this year’s Irish team doesn’t meet expectations, experience and depth certainly won’t be to blame.

Notre Dame returns all but one player from last year’s squad and adds three freshmen, resulting in a team that gives Irish coach Bobby Bayliss some unique challenges.

“The biggest challenges facing us this year involve two things: dealing with one of the country’s most difficult schedules and keeping a very deep team happy with ample playing opportunities,” Bayliss said. “I feel we are good enough to take on this schedule, but we need to be sufficiently resilient to handle some losses and rebound well to take advantage of the large number of opportunities that we will have.

“As for playing time, I believe that this might be the deepest team we have ever had in my 23-year Notre Dame tenure. We have 10 players who have done well as starters, or are impact freshmen.”

Bayliss understands that with only graduating one starter from last season’s roster and adding three solid freshmen this season it will be difficult to get everyone ample playing time consistently.

While the Irish opened the season ranked No. 30 in the nation, Bayliss doesn’t worry about the polls early in the year.

“I don’t put a lot of stock in rankings, especially pre-season ones,” Bayliss said. “Ours is based primarily on last year’s finish. I think we are better than that.”

The Irish also have four players with singles preseason rankings including freshman Blas Moros (No. 74), sophomore Casey Watt (No. 18), and juniors Stephen Havens (No. 93) and Dan Stahl (No. 95).

Bayliss said the Irish will need to rely on their doubles teams to pull out the doubles point and start the matches off strong.

“We have been working hard on our doubles this year, as well as trying to concentrate on the areas of individual weakness that each of our players has,” Bayliss said. “I can honestly say that critical decisions still need to be made regarding both who and what combinations will step out on the court. Watt and [Tyler] Davis played together last fall and had some good results, but they need to buy into a system that gives them a better chance to win, playing higher percentages and being more consistent, or perhaps find other partners.

“Havens and Fitzgerald have been a pleasant surprise so far. After that it will be our challenge to find a solid No. 3 team.”

After losing seven matches last season by a score of 4-3, the Irish come their experience in close matches will result in more wins in the spring.

The Irish are 2-1 after opening the season with wins over William & Mary and IUPUI but falling 7-4 to No. 2 Virginia. They will return to the court Saturday to face Tulsa in Columbus, Ohio.