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Men’s Tennis: ND prepares for outdoor play

By Peter Steiner | Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fresh off a 4-1 home victory over No. 13 Illinois, the Irish will head to Alabama for spring break to practice outdoors and play in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic starting March 15.

Notre Dame (8-5) has won three of its last four matches, including wins over familiar rivals in then-No. 21 Michigan and Illinois. Although the team will face unfamiliar opponents in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic, the Irish have extensive experience at the event taking place in Montgomery, Ala.

“It’s one of the really special events in college tennis and this is our 21st appearance ino22 years in that event,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “We are excited about being down there.

“We don’t know a lot of the other teams. We haven’t seen them and there isn’t anybody from the Midwest and so we just want to play well.”

The Irish will fly to Birmingham, Ala., on Friday and make their way to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to practice for five days on outdoor courts. The team will then compete in the eight-team bracket tournament Friday, March 15 through Sunday, March 17.

Notre Dame has played every one of its spring season matches indoors so playing outdoors will be a welcome change, Bayliss said.

“Any spring sport participant or coach is excited for the warm weather that a spring break trip brings and we’re no exception,” Bayliss said. “I know our guys will be looking forward to getting outside and playing in warm weather and seeing what the rest of the tennis world experiences everyday.”

But while the team is looking forward to the nice weather and opportunity to compete outdoors, it will also need to adapt to the different playing conditions, Bayliss said.

“[Playing outdoors] is a tremendous adjustment, much more than you would think,” Bayliss said. “One of the things that you have to adjust to is sound. … A player doesn’t realize how much he depends on his sense of sound to know how hard the ball is hit and where it’s going.

“The second factor would be wind. Even if it’s not very windy, indoors the ball is pretty much always going to land where you think it will. Outdoors, you’re dealing with different conditions, wind being the most stringent one.”

The Irish have won the event several times, with their most recent championship coming in 2007. However, Bayliss said the team is keeping its focus on improving everyday instead of on focusing on taking home the championship.

“The expectation would be to continue to win and build our résumé,” Bayliss said. “The goal from here forward is to continue to improve individually and collectively. Each of our players has some things they need to do to become better and our team needs to do a few things as well. I think continuing to improve our doubles is one of the goals and learning to serve out and finish matches would be another.”

The Irish will begin competition Friday, March 15 when the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic begins in Montgomery, Ala.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu