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Men’s Tennis:Helgeson leads maturation

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brett Helgeson proved he deserved his preseason ranking of No. 25 in the nation.

Leading up his Round of 16 showing at the ITA National Indoors this past weekend, Helgeson had a quarterfinal finish at the Midwest Regional event.

Helgeson also made a run to the round of 16 of the All-American Championships.

“I think Brett had a very strong showing at Regionals,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “He reached the quarters against a very strong field, losing to a red-hot German player from Wisconsin. He demonstrated poise beyond what he had shown a year ago and is finding more ways to get to the net and put pressure on his opponent. I believe that he can be one of the big surprises in college tennis this year. He and Stephen Havens have fared well in doubles, losing in the quarters to the eventual winners.”

The rest of the Irish squad traveled to the William & Mary Invitational. The team combined a 32-7 record in singles and doubles play being led by senior captain Sean Tan.

Sophomores Dan Stahl and Stephen Havens combined for 10 wins on the weekend.

“My expectations for this team are that we continue to improve,” Bayliss said. “With a schedule like ours in which the majority of our opponents will be among the nation’s top 25 teams, we know that we had better meet that level quickly or be left behind trying to get the number of the truck that just hit us. Certainly we will take some losses and our destiny will be shaped by how we respond to these challenges.”

After losing Sheeva Parbhu and Andrew Roth from last season’s starting lineup the Irish will look to Havens, and Stahl, among others to lead the Irish behind Helgeson.

Freshmen Casey Watt and Niall Fitzgerald also have stepped up and earned some big victories already for the Irish.

“Our freshmen have been quite good, if somewhat inconsistent,” Bayliss said. “Sometimes the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, but this group can be really good if they buy in. Casey Watt is a real shotmaker, who needs only to improve his volleys and become more consistent. He needs to learn that tennis is not like gymnastics in that there is no extra reward for the degree of difficulty in each shot attempted. Niall Fitzgerald needs to believe in himself more a crunch time and firm up his backhand.”

Bayliss stressed that the Irish will have to rely on the underclassmen heavily to balance out the rest of the lineup.

The Irish will have time to heal and mature until they host Pepperdine on Jan. 16.