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Squad heads into last regular season event

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, April 13, 2007

Notre Dame will look to add another win to its record as the team travels to Louisville for its final regular season matchup. The No. 6 Irish enter the match after sweeping Kentucky 7-0 in their final home match Wednesday. The win put Notre Dame at 9-0 on its home courts and 20-3 overall. After struggling in doubles play earlier this season, the Irish rallied to sweep doubles play for the second time in a row – the team also won the doubles point in its 7-0 win over Ball State Tuesday. The Irish had not changed their double pairs all season but did so against Ball State and kept the new lineup against Kentucky. They likely will stick with the same pairings against Louisville. Senior Stephen Bass and Ryan Keckley defeated Kentucky’s Bruno Agostinelli and Kenny Hodge 8-5 at No. 1 doubles in just their second match together this season. The duo hadn’t played alongside each other since Sept. 18, 2004.Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said Bass and Keckley’s recent success at No. 1 doubles has been a result of the pair’s great chemistry. “We put our two best sets of hand at No. 1 doubles,” Bayliss said. “Ryan’s ability to poach off Stephen’s serve has been helpful.”New pairings also include junior Sheeva Parbhu and sophomore Brett Helgeson at No. 2 doubles and senior Barry King and junior Andrew Roth at No. 3 doubles. All three doubles teams have won the past two matches in which they have been paired together, and Bayliss hopes they will see the same success in Louisville.”We’ve been successful with [doubles] the last two matches, and we hope that this will continue to make us a more viable threat to win the doubles point,” he said.Louisville enters Saturday’s matchup with a record of 8-13 on the season. The Cardinals last faced No. 31 Virginia Commonwealth April 8. The team was defeated at doubles but rallied back in singles play. Louisville jumped ahead to a 2-1 lead as No. 60 Slavko Radman made quick work of No. 79 Petr Olsak defeating him in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. But VCU took four points at No. 3-6 singles and captured a 5-2 win.Even though Louisville fell to VCU, Bayliss said that Notre Dame is prepared for a challenging match.Louisville defeated Notre Dame 4-1 in the 2006 Big East championship final last April. En route to victory Radman defeated Bass 2-6. 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 1 spot. The lone Irish point came from Helgeson as he cruised past Johnson in a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 decision. The Irish had defeated Louisville 5-2 earlier that month during a regular season match.Bayliss said that the team hopes to avenge last year’s showing in the Big East championship as they travel to Louisville Saturday. The team will look to doubles to continue posting strong performances as well as Roth. The junior has been a key player for the Irish at No. 6 singles. Roth’s ability to secure wins for the Irish at the bottom of the lineup has been crucial to their success.”The growth in Andrew Roth’s game has been important,” Bayliss noted. “We started the year not really knowing what we were going to get from him. Now he’s our spark plug, he plays with a lot of emotion.”The Irish are prepared to be challenged by Louisville but will look for strong performances at doubles play to jumpstart the match. Bayliss said the memory of last year’s match won’t hurt either.”We are expecting a big challenge and our guys remember the loss we had a year ago,” Bayliss said. “That’s been firmly imprinted on their brains the whole year, and they are anxious to make amends to that match a year ago.”

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For the second consecutive weekend, the Irish will have to contend with Mother Nature as well as the other teams in the tournament field. In their final event before the Big East Championships, the Irish will head to Columbus, Ohio for the Kepler Intercollegiate at the Scarlet Course of the Ohio State Golf Club. “[The course] is going to play tough,” Irish senior co-captain Cole Isban said. “It’s difficult to begin with and the wind and snow we’re expecting is just going to add to that.” Last week, the Irish carded an eighth-place team score amidst rain and strong winds at the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.In Columbus, Notre Dame will take on a number of regional foes, including host Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State. “We’re just looking to get some district wins against some of those teams,” said Isban. This tournament will also mark the first one of the season in which the Irish will have the opportunity to take on Louisville, a team Isban calls Notre Dame’s most formidable Big East opponent. “We get to take on Louisville so that should give us a good idea of where we stand,” said Isban. Along with Isban, the Irish send senior co-captain, junior Greg Rodgers, sophomore Josh Sandman, and freshman Doug Fortner to compete in the team’s final tune-up before the conference tournament. Freshman Mike King will also play in the Kepler Intercollegiate as an individual performer. “It’s going to be an important weekend for us,” Isban said. Practice rounds will be held this Friday. Each team will play two 18-hole rounds Saturday and one on Sunday. Temperatures are expected to top out in the mid-40s with constant precipitation likely throughout the weekend.