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Men’s Tennis: ND returns to play after two-week recess

Peter Steiner | Friday, March 30, 2012

After a two-week respite, the Irish will return to the courts Saturday when they face off against Ball State in their first outdoor match of the spring season. Later Saturday evening, Notre Dame (12-7) will meet St. Bonaventure indoors, for the first-ever matchup of the two schools.

While Ball State (13-6) is not typically considered to be a top-tier tennis program, the Irish recognize they cannot underestimate the Cardinals, Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

“Ball State is a team that traditionally has won the Mid-American Conference under Bill Richards, their coach,” Bayliss said. “We played them last year at Ball State, and they were a good enough team that their No. 4 singles actually beat [sophomore] Greg Andrews in that match, so we take them pretty seriously. We feel we are playing well and we are really not particularly afraid of anybody, so we expect to do well.”

In the evening, Irish will head indoors to the Eck Tennis Pavilion to face off against a St. Bonaventure (1-9), a team entering the match with only one victory in their spring season thus far. As it is the second match of the day, the Irish may send out an atypical lineup to meet the Bonnies, Bayliss said.

“I think we will be careful not to push anybody too hard or cause an injury,” Bayliss said. “We think we’ve got eight or nine guys that are all pretty capable of winning in singles and I wouldn’t be surprised if two or three of those guys get in to play in the second match.”

The Irish have not played since a 4-3 loss to South Florida on March 17 in Tampa Bay, Fla., but thanks to an extended stay in Florida and unseasonably warm weather in South Bend the past two weeks, the Irish had the opportunity to consistently play outdoors.

“Fortunately, the weather has really cooperated with us,” Bayliss said. “We got to practice and play for nine straight days in 85 to 90-degree temperatures in Tampa. When we got back here, we still had the 80-degree mark, and it was a big surprise.”

Two months remain in the spring season for the Irish, including the Big East championships and NCAA tournament. With the warm weather, the Irish have been able to practice outdoors, something Bayliss said is crucial, as the majority of these matches will be played in these competitions.

“When you are indoors, it’s easier to go through your shots more and be aggressive and you get rewarded for taking some chances,” Bayliss said. “When you are outdoors, you have to focus on the depth of your shots and your placement, and be more patient and work the ball a little bit more before your opportunity comes.

“So we’ve tried to increase our threshold of how many balls we can make in a row and make sure that feeds into the rest of the year for us.”

As the Irish look to their matches Saturday and what remains on their spring schedule, they have one thought on their mind, Bayliss said.

“The goal is to win everything else we play,” Bayliss said. “We’d like to think that if we play well, we can win any of [the remaining] matches and the goal is to win them all.”

The Irish face off against Ball State at 11 a.m. at the Courtney Tennis Center, followed by a 6 p.m. match with St. Bonaventure in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu