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Men’s Tennis: Notre Dame ends season with rival Louisville

Peter Steiner | Friday, April 12, 2013

Riding a six-match win streak, the No. 32 Irish will close out the regular season when they travel to Kentucky to face No. 47 Louisville on Saturday.

The Cardinals (13-11) won the Big East conference championship last year and represent Notre Dame’s toughest Big East opponent this season, as they are the next-highest nationally-ranked team in the conference.

“It’s a big [match] for us because we have a great rivalry for Louisville and a lot of respect for them,” Irish coach Bob Bayliss said. “They have been a Round-of-16 team recently in the NCAA tournament and, every time we play, it brings out the best competitive instinct in both teams. They won the Big East last year and so we know what’s at stake, and we’re going to certainly give it our best shot.”

Notre Dame (15-7) found success against the Cardinals in the regular season last year, defeating them 5-2 on Senior Day in South Bend. The Irish lost to the Cardinals, however, in the finals of both the 2011 and 2010 Big East championships.

While the match marks the final regular season meeting between the two teams before they both move to the ACC, there is also a chance the teams will face off in the Big East championships, which will be hosted by the Irish from April 18-21. 

“The dynamic changes [between this weekend and next weekend],” Bayliss said. “The forecast looks like we’ll be outside in Louisville, but it’s going to be iffy here. There’s not a whole lot to be taken from whether we win or lose this match. It won’t have much bearing on the next weekend, which will be the bigger matchup of the two.”

To defeat the Cardinals in Louisville on Saturday, the Irish will have to win some key matches in the singles lineup and perform well in doubles, Bayliss said. One of these key matches will be No. 1 singles, where No. 89 Irish junior Greg Andrews will face No. 66 Cardinals sophomore Sebastian Stiefelmeyer.

“They have an outstanding No. 1 player, Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, who’s ranked ahead of Greg,” Bayliss said. “That will be a big match up for him. … I think a number of the matchups are intriguing in how they’re going to play out. We’ll take a lot away from this in terms of how we play this weekend.”

Experience will also play a key role in Saturday’s matchup, as both teams return at least half of their respective singles lineup from last year. One potential rematch of last year’s regular season meeting may arise at No. 4 singles. Irish junior Billy Pecor fell to Cardinals sophomore Michael Lippens last April, 6-4, 6-4, and, barring any lineup changes, is scheduled to face Lippens again at No. 4 singles.

“I think they have four of last year’s starters in their lineup and we have three,” Bayliss said. “We’re looking at a close match.”

The Irish will take the courts against the Cardinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center in Louisville, Ky.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu