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Men’s Tennis: Notre Dame to faces unique challenge against Wildcats

Walker Carey | Monday, February 6, 2012

The Irish return to action at Northwestern tonight for what Irish coach Bobby Bayliss anticipates will be a unique challenge.

“[Northwestern] is a really good team in a very competitive conference,” Bayliss said. “Its lineup is very balanced. We have to be sharp at every position because there will be a test at every spot.”

Bayliss said he attributes much of the Wildcats’ successes to their head coach, Arvid Swan, who is in his fifth season at Northwestern (5-0). Swan has had a noticeable effect on the program, and in 2009 leading the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005.

“[Northwestern] has a really good coach in Arvid Swan,” Bayliss said. “[Swan] was a very good player at Michigan in the late nineties and has done a remarkable job in turning around the program at Northwestern. I believe this could be the year that [Northwestern] really becomes a big factor in the Big Ten.”

The Irish split a pair of away matches this past weekend, winning at Wake Forest on Friday and losing at Duke on Sunday. Despite the split, Bayliss said he believes his squad made a solid improvement in at least one area of the game — doubles play.

“Our doubles play was much better on both Friday and Sunday,” he said. “We were able to win four of the six doubles matches on the weekend, which was pretty encouraging. It was also encouraging to see that we fought hard and played pretty well in the matches we did lose. We need to keep improving our doubles because that point is so vital for momentum.”

These improvements might be a result of significant lineup changes Bayliss made prior to last weekend’s matches. The Irish coach said the lineup changes showed promise.

“We switched around our No. 1 and No. 2 teams by having senior Casey Watt play with senior Niall Fitzgerald at No. 1 and junior Spencer Talmadge play with sophomore Greg Andrews at No. 2,” Bayliss said. “[Watt and Fitzgerald] won on Friday night and played a pretty good match in defeat on Sunday. The pair of [Talmadge and Andrews] won both its matches this weekend. I thought [Andrews] really adjusted well to the change, as he played some of his best doubles tennis I have seen him play.”

Bayliss said he is not sure if the changes will stick long term, but as of right now he is content with the lineup.

“Our new combinations look to be fairly solid at least for the short-term,” Bayliss said. “We will have to see how things go in the next few matches, but I liked how things went with them this past weekend.”

The Irish return to the court tonight against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. at 6:30 p.m.


Contact Walker Carey at wcarey@nd.edu