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Men’s Tennis: Team faces tough test in visiting USC squad

Kate Gales | Friday, October 14, 2005

As tough as the USC football team is, its their formidable counterparts on the tennis courts could provide just as much of a challenge to the Irish as the two teams face each other in an exhibition match with the women’s squads on Friday night.

The Trojans bring a formidable history to the Eck Tennis Pavilion, with 15 NCAA Championships (most recently 1994), 16 singles championships and 20 doubles titles, the most in the nation.

“Their team is traditionally very strong,” head coach Bobby Bayliss said. “This year, I think we’re better [than we were last year], and I think we can make it pretty darn competitive.”

Notre Dame’s Eric Langenkamp recently competed in the ITA Polo Ralph Lauren All-America Championships, upsetting the nation’s No. 15 player in the consolation round before bowing out.

Langenkamp will play fourth on the Irish in singles. Stephen Bass leads the team, followed by Sheeva Parbhu and Brett Helgeson rounding out the top three. After Langekamp, Patrick Buchanan, Ryan Keckley, Andrew Roth and Yuichi Uda or Santiago Montoya will be on the courts for the Irish.

Veteran Irackli Akhvlediani is sick and cannot pay for the Irish this weekend.

“There’s a lot to see, we’re pretty excited,” Bayliss said. “We feel they have one of the great traditions in all of college tennis … I feel like [USC head coach] Peter Smith is one of the best coaches in college tennis.”

According to Bayliss, the USC tennis team has traveled with the football team to Notre Dame each fall to play an exhibition match the day before the football game.

Smith coming to South Bend is also a human-interest thread in the story.

“He was the coach at Pepperdine who mentored [current Irish assistant] Todd [Doebler], so it has a nice human element to it,” Bayliss said.

Bayliss said that all the players have worked hard in the off-season to improve their particular weaknesses.

“Each player’s areas for liability and strengths are different … it would really vary [which changes are visible but] certainly those things are there,” Bayliss said.

The team has matured together as each team works on individual improvement, but also on winning as a team.

Doubles is a focus for Bayliss. The top Notre Dame team of Langenkamp and Keckley has already registered two upsets of Top-25 teams this season, both at the Tom Fallon Invitational held at Notre Dame on Sept. 23-25.

Parbhu and Helgeson, Bass and Roth and Buchanan and Montoya round out the Irish doubles teams that will compete today.

“They have a well-balanced team and play very good doubles,” Bayliss said. “We anticipate a really close match.”

The bottom singles matches take the courts at 4 p.m., followed by the doubles matches and then the top singles matches. The matches will be played in conjunction with the Irish women taking on the USC women’s tennis teams.

After the hard work of the off-season, the team is ready for competition.

“I think it will be highly competitive and we’re looking to have a chance to win,” Bayliss said.