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Men’s Tennis: Irish head to annual tourney

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, March 9, 2007

The Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala. feels a little like home for Notre Dame.

The Irish have participated in the tournament for the past 17 years with continued recent success – Notre Dame advanced to the finals last year before losing to Virginia Commonwealth. The players are also well acquainted with their host families, as the team stays in the same houses every year.

“We feel like we’re almost going home when we go down there,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said.

Even though the Irish are familiar with the territory, the team still has its challenges ahead. Notre Dame will have to make the adjustment to playing outdoors after playing nearly all of their previous matches inside.

The Irish will also have to make sure they are physically capable of enduring the heat and weather conditions. Bayliss said that in past years he has had some players suffer from dehydration, and he does not want to see that happen again.

To make the transition to the heat smoother, Notre Dame will begin practicing in Montgomery several days before tournament play begins on March 15.

And then there’s the wind.

“When you haven’t played in the wind you get used to being comfortable without having to move your feet as much and then you go outside its more difficult to make that adjustment,” Bayliss said.

Besides the physical factors of the tournament, the team will face formidable competitors in the 16-team format. No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 22 Tulsa will be present. But despite facing tough competition, No. 7 Notre Dame enters the tournament as the highest national ranking.

The No. 2 player in the country, Tulsa’s Arnau Brugues – last year’s tournament most valuable player – will likely challenge Notre Dame senior Stephen Bass.

In doubles play, the Irish are likely to see Middle Tennessee State’s Andreas Siljestorm and Marco Born. The No. 4 doubles team in the country is the tallest duo in NCAA history with both standing at nearly 7-feet.

Beyond getting a chance to compete against some of the nation’s top teams and players, Bayliss said the team is just looking forward to get a chance to play.

“We are excited to be going,” he said. “It’s a great event for us and we’re excited about going.”