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Men’s Tennis: Irish seniors made their own luck at home

Deirdre Krasula | Wednesday, March 7, 2007

When Notre Dame defeated Michigan a year ago this March, head coach Bobby Bayliss never expected the team to remain undefeated on its home courts to this day. Notre Dame’s 6-1 win over Washington Monday marked the 17th straight home win for the Irish.

A key factor in the Irish success over the past two years has been the continual presence of now veteran players like seniors Stephen Bass, Ryan Keckley and Barry King and juniors Sheeva Parbhu and Andrew Roth. All five players were present when Notre Dame defeated Michigan in 2005 en route to an undefeated home winning streak.

As these key players matured, so too did the skill of the team and the strength of its roster. The upperclassmen led Notre Dame to victory over Ohio State Feb. 24, 2006. The 5-2 loss to the Irish was the only defeat the Buckeyes would suffer in the regular season.

“All our guys have key match experience,” Bayliss said. “And I really think our success this year is the willingness of the players to commit to each other and to buy into what it takes to be great.”

With five upperclassmen in the six singles positions, Notre Dame’s experience on the courts has continued to show – especially at home. It is important to always take home court advantage into account when looking at a team’s success at home, Bayliss said. The Irish defeated top-10 teams Ohio State and Louisville last year, and both of those matches were won at home.

“We’ve won some close matches here, and I think you tend to win more of those at home when your crowd is behind you and the guys are playing their hardest,” Bayliss said.

Playing at home means that a team not only has a crowd cheering it on but also is familiar with the courts and how to play the ball.

“Our guys have matured, and I’d love to say that I have the right magic tricks, but I think that everyone plays better at home,” Bayliss said. “You are familiar with the courts, you’ve got a supportive crowd – there a lot of reasons why the home team plays better.”

The Irish will begin their transition to outdoor play when they head down to Montgomery, Ala. for the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic. Bayliss said the team will look to make the transition by focusing on the physical factors that the change presents. The Irish will have to adjust to the heat, Bayliss said, and to how the wind affects not only their play but also the overall game.

Notre Dame travels to Montgomery March 12 to begin training for the tournament after a grueling week of practice and midterms. Bayliss recognizes that his players have made sacrifices and stressed that they are the ones who carried Notre Dame to its undefeated home streak.

“I think they’ve given up some things, and they are pretty focused, so I think they are the ones that get the credit,” he said.