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Men’s Tennis: Kentucky hands ND loss at Eck Pavilion

Chris Michalski | Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Notre Dame fell prey to Kentucky 5-2 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion Monday. The loss drops the Irish back down to .500 with a record of 6-6.

Even with the return of senior Brett Helgeson, the team could not muster enough points to defeat the high-powered Wildcats, who move to 8-2 on the season.

The doubles team of sophomore Stephen Havens and freshman Casey Watt got the Irish started with an 8-2 win in second doubles, but the Wildcats took over in first and third doubles. Irish duos of Brett Helgeson and Tyler Davis and Niall Fitzgerald and Matt Johnson lost 5-8 and 3-8, respectively, giving Kentucky an early 1-0 lead.

The singles lineups for both teams were dominated by youth, as only two upperclassmen competed between both teams. Those two – Helgeson for Notre Dame and Bruno Angostinelli for Kentucky – faced off in No. 1 singles. Angostinelli emerged victorious in a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 match.

Havens and Watt were the only two players to earn a point for the Irish. Havens knocked off Kentucky’s Brad Cox in three sets at second singles and Watt defeated Graerne Dyce 6-4, 6-3 at fourth singles.

With Helgeson the only upperclassman to provide consistent contributions to the team this season, Irish coach Bob Bayliss has been forced to entrust the underclassmen with the majority of scoring. So far this season, they have held their own.

“Maturity has been a key and the competitive spirit our younger guys have displayed has been remarkable at times,” Bayliss said. “That having been said, we need to make some improvements in areas where the heat of battle has exposed a few things we need to do better if we expect to keep improving.”

Bayliss said that to contend on the national level, the young guys must really “lock down the lower positions.”

They will get a chance to do just that as the Irish will face off in a home match against another top-25 opponent in Texas A&M. The match against the Aggies is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.