-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Men’s Tennis: Pecor overcomes old injuries to dominate his sophomore year

Peter Steiner | Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If facing adversity only makes one stronger, then sophomore Billy Pecor is the perfect example.

After facing injuries during his freshman year and a brief period at the end of February during matches against Marquette and Indiana, Pecor has now won four straight singles matches at No. 4 singles and three of his last four doubles matches with senior Sam Keeton at No. 3 doubles.

“He has two bad knees that bothered him all last year and he didn’t play a single dual match last year,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Then, perhaps from over compensation on the serve by not wanting to use his legs, he got an injury around the scapula. That was a problem because he couldn’t raise his hand higher than his shoulder for a while.”

Because he missed significant time due to the injuries last season, Pecor was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA, giving him three more years of eligibility after this season. After missing the match against the Hoosiers earlier this year, Pecor returned to the court March 3. Since then, he has compiled singles victories against Ohio State, Maryland, South Florida and Ball State.

“Lots of work in the training room, lots of rehab and solid practices [have led to my recent success],” Pecor said. “I’m just playing well. I’m striking the ball pretty well and gutted out some matches. The win over spring break was pretty shaky, but I’m working hard and trying to do my best.”

In Pecor’s first match back, the Irish faced their toughest opponent all year: No. 2 Ohio State. Playing at No. 3 doubles, Pecor and Keeton took down redshirt sophomore Peter Kobelt and junior Connor Smith 8-6 to clinch the doubles point for the Irish. Pecor followed up the exciting victory by defeating No. 44 redshirt junior Devin McCarthy 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-7) – the only Irish singles victory of the day.

“We were both going at it the entire match,” Pecor said. “It was pretty long match, a pretty grueling match.

“We all started off on a good note because we won the doubles point . . . That set us off on a good start heading into singles, but I just tried to use the same energy that I had and pass that onto my singles. I was able to do that and finish well.”

Pecor’s victory not only handed McCarthy his third loss of the spring season, but also displayed Pecor’s potential if he is able to maintain a high level of play, Bayliss said.

“With Billy’s game, the sky is the limit,” Bayliss said. “He hits the biggest ball on the team. There are not many people he can’t overpower. Devin McCarthy from Ohio State is a big, strong guy that knocks people off the court and Billy knocked him off the court.

“I’m just looking for him to become a little more proficient around the net and more consistent in general.”

While Pecor has battled injuries throughout his collegiate career, there is another challenge that he must continually overcome. As a civil engineering major, Pecor must balance his heavy academic workload with the time commitment that comes with being a varsity athlete.

“He’s taking a really hard class load this semester and I think there have been days where he has kind of dragged in here with three hours of sleep,” Bayliss said. “He’s had to fight through some of those things, but that’s all part of the deal.”

With four matches remaining before the Big East championship, Pecor and the team have a clear goal in mind.

“We want to finish very strong the rest of the season,” Pecor said. “We want to win the Big East back in Tampa Bay in April and we want to win the first two rounds and go the final side of the NCAA tournament and hopefully go further than that.”

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu