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ND Men’s Tennis: Bass, Irish take on Purdue

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, March 23, 2007

Notre Dame takes on Purdue Sunday, while ranked nationally in the top-five for the first time since the Irish were No. 4 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll in March 2002.

Despite breaking into the top-five, Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said he prefers not to think too much about rankings.

“I really don’t put a whole lot of credence into the rankings at this point,” he said. “There’s still a lot of tennis to be played.”

Even though Bayliss is not focused on the rankings, he is still proud of the way the team is performing this season.

“It’s a tribute to the fact that our guys have made big commitments this year and have stayed together as a team and have performed when it mattered,” he said.

No. 1 singles player, senior Stephen Bass, also rose in the rankings from No. 12 to No. 8 – his highest career ranking.

Bayliss said that Bass deserves the ranking and has been determined since he first stepped foot on Notre Dame’s courts. As a freshman, Bass struggled with his serve and forehand but never gave up, Bayliss noted.

“He was a guy that made you hit a lot of balls, and you had to beat him because he wasn’t going to beat himself,” he said. “He has really maximized his abilities and should be extremely proud of what he’s been able to achieve.”

Bass defeated Tulsa’s No. 5 Arnau Brugues in the semifinals of the Blue/Gray Classic March 17. Bayliss said the victory was one of the best the senior has ever played.

“When he beat Brugues, he did it by attacking and anybody that knew Stephen a couple of years ago probably wouldn’t have recognized his play,” Bayliss said.

Being able to play tough competition outdoors at the Blue/Gray Classic last week has allowed the Irish an insight into the rest of their season. Notre Dame knocked off No. 14 Alabama in the finals of the Blue/Gray Classic to take the title.

“We had ten straight days of play outdoors,” Bayliss said. “And that’s something that has given us a lot of confidence.”

Notre Dame dropped the doubles points in both the semifinals and finals of the Blue/Gray and will look to regain that strength against Purdue, Bayliss said. The No. 7 duo of senior Ryan Keckley and junior Sheeva Parbhu will likely take on Purdue’s Branko Kuzmanovic and Paul Rose. Notre Dame’s top duo dropped their last match 8-3 to Alabama’s Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau

Bayliss feels that Purdue will present the Irish with a challenge but is confident that team is up for the task.

“I’m most concerned with our ability to play well and to simply continue to show improvement as the year goes on,” he said.