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MEN’S TENNIS: Irish look to make a statement in tourney

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, February 16, 2007

It may have been five years since the Irish have seen the courts at the National Team Indoor Championships, but Notre Dame is ready.

“You are playing every match as a dual match and we have already seen a lot of the teams that are here,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “We have seen these guys, we now what is out there.”

The trip back to the tournament will be a familiar event for Bayliss. The Irish last played in the tournament in 2002, and were ranked No. 10 nationally when they upset No. 7 Pepperdine 4-3.

No. 9 Notre Dame will take on No. 10 Pepperdine again in the first round of the indoor matchup.

The team will compete alongside many opponents it has already seen in regular season play. Notre Dame practiced alongside Pepperdine and Duke on Thursday in the 18-court Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago.

“We had a look at Pepperdine and I think we had a good workout, we have prepared for this pretty well,” Bayliss said. “They looked aggressive, they hit the ball clearly and decisively.”

Pepperdine, the 2006 NCAA Champion, enter the tournament after a 5-2 win over the University of Nevada- Las Vegas. Pepperdine dropped the doubles point but responded with wins in five out of six singles matches.

Bayliss is confident that the team will perform well come match time, and the Irish will continue to focus on improving their doubles game. Notre Dame dropped the doubles point in their last match to Wisconsin but rallied to take the 6-1 win. No. 33 Andre Begemann defeated Elliot Wronski 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1 singles.

Irish senior Stephen Bass will take on Begemann at No. 1 singles today. Begemann, a strong server and vollyer will present Bass with a challenge, but Bayliss feels that the senior is ready.

Bayliss knows that the Irish will be facing many top opponents and players, but he feels them team is prepared to make a strong showing.

“We want to show some poise under pressure,” Bayliss said. “We are at a point where we can make a dent in this field.”

If the Irish knock off Pepperdine they will take on the winner of the Georgia and University of Pennsylvania. No. 1 Georgia is the defending ITA National Team Indoor Championships and was the top seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament, eliminating the 18th-seeded Irish in the Sweet 16.

Even with their sights on the possibility of playing Georgia, the Irish are focused on their matches today.

“Sunday’s opponent is a way off and is not worth speculating about right now,” Bayliss said.

No matter what the outcome of the weekend, Bayliss said that the team is grateful to get an opportunity to play against top opponents – every team is guaranteed three matches in the tournament.

Notre Dame will look to further their six-game winning streak starting with Pepperdine.

“I think we are ready to go,” Bayliss said. “We are prepared and we have done everything we need to do and we are anxious to be in play.”