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Men’s Tennis: Irish to host top competition

Sam Gans | Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coming off a strong 5-2 win at No. 64 Northwestern on Tuesday, the No. 30 Irish will continue a busy stretch this weekend. Notre Dame will play three matches at the Eck Tennis Pavilion, as they face Wisconsin today and No. 6 Kentucky and IUPUI in separate matches Sunday.

The match against Notre Dame (6-3) is only the third match of the season for the Badgers (2-0), who haven’t played since Jan. 28.

“I’m not sure why [the Badgers] chose to schedule things that way, but you’d think that we’d be certainly more match ready, but I don’t know if that translates into anything,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “They’ve won the two matches they’ve played very easily, so they should be very confident. We’ve had a pretty spirited rivalry with Wisconsin over the years and generally pretty hard-fought amongst some matches, and I would anticipate more of the same this year.”

After today’s match against Wisconsin, the Irish will not have much time to rest with the Wildcats (8-0) and Jaguars (1-4) coming to town Sunday. Kentucky in particular will pose a strong test for the Irish.

“I think [Kentucky is] one of the top three or four teams in the country and we’ll have to play well, but we’ve had good matches with them in the past and we’ve had our share of success here when they’ve been highly-ranked,” Bayliss said. “There’s no reason to think it won’t be a pretty competitive match.

“They’re pretty deep. Their No. 6 [singles player] is ranked No. 45 in the country, so that kind of gives you an idea of their depth, but we’ve beaten some of their guys in the past and I expect it to be a highly-contested match.”

After the elite Wildcats, however, comes a struggling IUPUI.

Despite the lack of success the Jaguars have shown this season, IUPUI assistant coach Pat Nickell’s past interaction with the Irish could help the Jaguars strategically.

“[IUPUI hasn’t] done as well this year and it might provide an opportunity for some of our guys to get some match experience that haven’t received it,” Bayliss said. “They’re very well-coached. Pat Nickell is one of their coaches and he works in our camp and I know he’ll do a great job. He knows our guys backwards and forwards so they’ll come ready to play.”

Despite the potential fatigue that could come from playing two matches in one day, Bayliss thinks the doubleheader will be beneficial to the Irish.

“We think we have pretty good depth, and any time you play a doubleheader it means you’re going to need to rely on it, so I think that’s a plus for us,” he said. “It doesn’t have to hurt us that we’re playing two matches in one day. I think we’ve got a couple of guys who haven’t gotten in many matches that are capable of playing as well as the starters. And so I’m not afraid of the two [matches] in one day.”

The Irish square off with the Badgers today at 4 p.m. before facing the Wildcats and Jaguars on Sunday at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. All three matches will be played at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu