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Men’s Tennis: Irish topple two Texas squads over break

Peter Steiner | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Irish entered the Lone Star State last weekend with four losses against teams ranked in the top-25.

Just a few days later, the Irish (17-7) left Texas brimming with confidence after defeating SMU, 5-2, and taking down their first top-25 ranked opponent this season: No. 25 Texas A&M, 4-3.

While the Irish prevailed over the Mustangs (9-10) on Saturday, the victory didn’t come without a fight.

“Against SMU, we got down pretty early,” sophomore Greg Andrews said. “We lost the doubles point and then actually lost four first sets and five of the matches ended up going to three sets.

“But we ended up winning five [singles matches], so I thought that we all did a good job of fighting really hard even though we maybe weren’t playing our best.”

Besides a three-set loss by senior Casey Watt at No. 1 singles, the Irish earned victories in every singles match to defeat the Mustangs, 5-2.

The Irish then travelled to College Station, Texas, to face off with Texas A&M (12-11) on Monday. Entering the match, the Irish were confident in their ability to take down the No. 25 Aggies, Andrews said.

“[The Aggies] are ranked high and they are a good team, but we all definitely expected to win,” Andrews said. “We looked at their lineup and up and down the whole lineup, we knew that we were better and we knew we could win those matches and we did.”

Similar to their day against SMU, the Irish started out poorly – dropping the doubles point as well as two of the first three singles matches. But the Irish came roaring back, winning the remaining three singles matches to take the overall match.

“I think [the win against SMU] translated into Texas A&M because we had a few guys come from behind again against Texas A&M,” Andrews said. “We got down 0-1 again, but we knew that we could come back from that deficit. Again, we just fought really hard and it was closer that time, but it was just a really good fight from the whole team.”

Watt’s 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 29 senior Alexis Klegou was the highlight of an impressive night for the Irish. Klegou is the highest ranked opponent Watt has defeated since he took down No. 7 Moritz Baumann of Wisconsin in 2010.

With one regular season match left, the Irish have peaked at the right time. Since losing to South Florida on March 17, the Irish have won five straight matches – their longest winning streak of the season.

“I think [these victories] were really important for our confidence,” Andrews said. “After the loss to South Florida, all of us were bit down, but we all knew that we were good enough to beat a team like [Texas A&M.] Just the fact that we went out and did it, I think is really important for us moving into the Big East and the NCAAs.”

Before heading to the postseason, the Irish will face off against Louisville in their last regular season match Saturday at the Courtney Tennis Center.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu