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MEN’S TENNIS: Big Ten matches await

Kate Gales | Thursday, March 24, 2005

It’s another big weekend against the Big Ten.The Irish, who have had a week to rest their racquets from a 6-1 loss to No. 2 Illinois, face Michigan on Saturday and Purdue on Monday.”Illinois just moved up to No. 2 this week, and I think we have to be realistic and understand that that wasn’t a terrible loss,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. Michigan, ranked No. 56 in the ITA poll released Tuesday, defeated Michigan State 6-1 last night. Earlier this season, No. 20 Notre Dame narrowly escaped with a 4-3 score in East Lansing.”Michigan is the better team, I think, but Michigan State’s a very difficult place to play,” Bayliss said. The Irish came out flat against Illinois, a team featuring two highly-ranked doubles players. Brent D’Amico was dangerously close to an upset of Ryler Deheart, ranked No. 4 in the country, at the second spot in the singles lineup. Irackli Ackhvlediani posted the only score for the Irish at No. 5 with a three-set victory, and Patrick Buchanan’s dramatic comeback attempt made the match closer than the score indicated.Bayliss worked the team hard this week, both indoors and outdoors.”We’ve worked some more on our doubles, and we’re working on getting back indoors, taking the ball early, which is a component of indoor play,” he said, noting that the team was also focusing on ground stroke drills. “We have been sort of watching the weather day-to-day,” said Bayliss. “Monday we went outside and practiced … Now it looks like we’re going to be indoors [at Ann Arbor].”The lineup has featured a rotation of eight singles players this year.”I’ve felt like we have eight players who are capable of playing singles and winning,” Bayliss said. “If someone looks particularly good in practice, I might be so inclined [to alter the lineup] … We are tinkering with doubles and possibly making some changes in terms of combinations.”Bayliss is unconcerned with the team’s drop in the ranking from No. 16 to No. 20. “At this point, the rankings aren’t particularly important,” he said. “They only become important during the NCAA tournament.” On Easter Sunday, the team will travel to No. 68 Purdue for their second match of the break.”That’ll be a pretty quick turnaround after the Michigan match,” Bayliss said. “We can handle that – we played three days in a row in Montgomery.”The Irish will take the courts in Ann Arbor at 1 p.m. at the Courtney Tennis Center.