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MEN’S TENNIS: Irish knock off pair of Big Ten teams

Rama Gottumakkala | Wednesday, March 30, 2005

One loss to a Big Ten team is quite enough, thank you. Bouncing back from a tough loss to Illinois in their last match, the Irish made plenty of noise over the Easter weekend at the expense of two other Big Ten teams.After clinching a 5-2 victory against No. 56 Michigan (10-6) at home on Saturday, No. 20 Notre Dame (15-5) brushed past No. 68 Purdue (3-9) with a 7-0 sweep in West Lafayette on Monday.After this weekend’s action, Notre Dame improved to 6-1 against Big Ten opponents on the season. Their sole defeat came at the hands of No. 3 Illinois.”We play the best teams in the Big Ten, traditionally,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “It’s a good measuring stick for us because, geographically, we’re in the center of the Big Ten, and it’s easy to schedule. It makes a lot of sense, and they’re all good programs. “We’re very happy to get that quality of schedule without actually being in the Big Ten Conference.”On Saturday, the Irish continued their annual rivalry against the Wolverines. Notre Dame has beaten Michigan the last nine times the teams have met on Irish turf. This time was no different, as the win streak was pushed to 10 in a row.”That’s always a spirited match,” Bayliss said. “It’s a nice, healthy, competitive rivalry between two schools that have had a lot of success in numerous sports over the years. You feel the electricity in the air when you warm up to play Michigan. It really means something.”The Irish found themselves in an early hole as their revamped doubles lineups dropped the match’s closely contested first point. Despite also falling behind in three first set singles matches, the team bounced back well and won five of the six individual contests. After the Irish evened the team score at 1-1, sophomore Stephen Bass gave the Irish the lead with a win over No. 81 Matko Maravic in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 upset. The victory gave Bass his fourth win this season over a nationally-ranked opponent and improved his career mark to 14-2 in three-set matches.”Stephen Bass really deserves a lot of credit because Maravic had just beaten one of the best players in the country the weekend before at LSU,” Bayliss said. “We have a lot of respect for him. All of [Michigan’s] guys played well against us. I was particularly proud of the way Irackli [Akhvlediani] fought and dug out his match against Steve Peretz. In general, we played pretty darn well.”Although he dropped the first set of his match 6-2, Akhvlediani clinched the match for Notre Dame with a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Michigan’s Steve Peretz at the No. 5 slot.Shuffling their doubles lineup dramatically, the Irish had mixed results over the weekend but showed flashes of potential. Although the team dropped the doubles point against Michigan, they placed well against the Boilermakers and picked up the early 1-0 advantage. Irish duos Brent D’Amico and Eric Langenkamp and Ryan Keckley and Barry King posted doubles victories at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively.The 7-0 shutout match against the Boilermakers was a fairly quick one that saw the Irish claim five of the singles matches in straight sets. D’Amico was the first player to register a singles victory, defeating Sounak Chatterjee in a quick 6-2, 6-2 decision. Akhvlediani again clinched the match victory for Notre Dame against Purdue, posting a 6-2, 6-3 victory against Jarred Leibner.”He’s been a pretty big rock for us this year,” Bayliss said. “You better bring your lunch against Irackli because you’re going to be out there a long time if you plan on beating him. He keeps the ball deep and he hits big off the ground. He’s come probably the greatest distance of all our players in the last year.”Notre Dame’s next challenge will come from No. 44 Southern Methodist in an outdoor showdown next Sunday.