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Men’s Tennis: Tough singles matches determine loss for Irish

Katelyn Grabarek | Sunday, January 18, 2009

he Irish dropped their spring opener Friday against Pepperdine in a 4-3 decision that was decided by a trio of three-set singles matches.

The Irish were able to gain the doubles point when sophomore Stephen Havens and freshmen Casey Watt teamed up to defeat Stuart Keplar and Alex Llompart. Freshman Niall Fitzgerald and sophomore Matt Johnson also teamed up to earn a doubles victory at No. 3, defeating Hugh Clarke and Jensen Turner 8-3.

“Our freshmen are very talented this year,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Three of them are in the mix to play a lot this year. Casey Watt is a tremendous shot maker, as is Niall Fitzgerald. Sam Keeton has the ability to flat out rip the ball from the backcourt.”

The No. 1 doubles duo of senior Brett Helgeson and sophomore Tyler Davis who are ranked No. 37 in the country fell to the No. 45 doubles team of Omar Altmann and Bassam Beidas 8-4.

In singles action Stephen Havens was the first Irish man to fall at No. 2 singles dropping his match against Altmann who is ranked 51 in singles.

Helgeson was the next singles match to finish. Helgeson is ranked No. 20 and was pitted against No. 122 Beidas. In a tough three set match Helgeson fell to Beidas 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

Keeton was able to secure his first victory in an Irish uniform after missing the fall season with a broken wrist defeating Turner 7-6, 6-1 to knot the score at two a piece.

“The biggest surprise from our pre-season two-a-day practice routine has been Sam Keeton,” Bayliss said. “He missed the entire fall semester with a broken right wrist, but has quickly made up for lost time.”

Watt was not able to pull out his three set singles match falling to Llompart by a final score of 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).

Sophomore Dan Stahl came away with a tough victory over No. 57 Mahmoud Kamel 4-6, 6-4, 6-6 (7-2). Stahl battled back from 5-3, deficit to push the third set to a tie break.

Davis’s match proved to be the deciding factor in the win for Pepperdine. Davis was matched up with Alejandro Moreno at No. 6 singles. After dropping the first set 6-4, Davis continued to battle and won the second set by the same score to push the match to a third. Davis was down 5-6 in the third set but again battled back to push it to a tie break in which he fell 7-5.

The Irish next travel to Virginia to take on No. 64 William and Mary, and then No. 5 Virginia next weekend.