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ND Tennis: Bass, Thompson twins leave “big shoes” to fill

Jay Wade | Friday, August 24, 2007

The Notre Dame men will begin the new year with many new faces. The Irish, who finished 26-4 in 2006, graduated four seniors, three of whom played in every singles and doubles match. That group includes former No. 1 singles player Stephen Bass. “That creates big shoes to fill,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.But Notre Dame has an influx of new talent this year with seven freshmen – David Anderson, Shaun Tan, Tyler Davis, Stephen Havens, Matt Johnson, David Stahl and Andrew Zutz. But Bayliss is willing to be patient. While the newcomers are talented, he said, they will need time to develop, though. “The depth we had last year was a real luxury that we will not be likely to afford this year,” Bayliss said. “I think that those [senior] losses will be very significant, but when you have freshmen and even returning players who did not play you have a ton of enthusiasm, so I think we’ll be a very spirited and hard-working team and I expect us to be very tough in the top part of our line up.”The Irish are not without veteran leadership, however, as they return such standouts as Sheeva Parbhu, Andrew Ross and Brett Helgeson. Parbhu is expected to fill the “big shoes” of Bass this year at No. 1 singles and will have to step up his play and assume a leadership position on the team. The returning players, especially Ross, have been showing improvement, Bayliss said.”Ross has made a jump over the summer improving his volleying and backhand and will be a strong lineup presence for us,” Bayliss said.The Irish take their opening serve on September 13 at the Olympic Field Invitational in Chicago. Women replace Thompson twinsThe Notre Dame women will begin the 2007 season with high expectations. The 2006-07 team, which finished 28-4, featured only two seniors in twins Catrina and Christian Thompson. While their departure vacates the top two singles and No. 1 doubles positions, the 2007-08 Irish welcome back integral players from last year’s team, and have added even more talent to their roster. “They were so good for us for four years, it’s a big spot to replace, but I think that we have a lot of returning players that played well at lower positions and can step up,” coach Jay Louderback said.Leading the charge of new, young talent coming to the team is freshman Kristin Rafael, one of the top high school players in the country last year. “She is a great competitor,” Louderback said. “I think doubles-wise she should help us and I think [her playing] singles will play a big part.”The biggest hurdle for the Irish will be figuring out who has improved over the summer and made the necessary leaps needed to step up and play at a higher level. With all of their returning talent, it could get crowded at the top. The top candidate for the No. 1 singles position could be Colleen Rielley, a sophomore who went 30-11 at the No. 3 singles spot in 2006-07. Other notable returning players will be junior Kelcy Tefft, who played was 26-9 at No. 4 singles, and her partner on last year’s No. 2 doubles team, senior Brooke Buck. At doubles, the pair went 25-7 last year. “The big thing for us this fall is going to be to establish our lineup and our doubles teams,” Louderback said. “We have a lot returning, a lot of people coming back, and we just need to get everyone to get back playing.”