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Men’s Tennis: ND to host a pair Sunday

Kate Grabarek | Friday, February 6, 2009

Notre Dame will host a pair of matches Sunday, taking on Duke at noon and Toledo at 6 p.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

No. 32 Notre Dame is coming off a weekend that saw it fall early at the ITA Nationals in Oklahoma to No. 12 Tulsa, and then rebound for a 4-0 victory over No. 20 Texas Tech.

“We have played pretty well thus far in our season,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Nobody is happy with a 2-4 record, but we certainly played the strongest six matches of the season nationally. Five of our matches were against top-20 teams and we beat a really good Texas Tech team in Tulsa on Sunday.”

Freshmen Casey Watt and Sam Keeton have come up big for the Irish in their two victories, as Keeton is unbeaten (5-0) in singles play.

“Sam has been great so far, but this was not unexpected,” Bayliss said. “He has the ability to take the ball early and take away his opponent’s time, so that has made him difficult for teams to prepare for. Being a lefty is always an advantage and he is learning how to maximize that with each match.”

In Sunday’s opener, the Irish will try for a repeat of last year’s matchup with Duke in Durham, N.C., when Notre Dame snuck by the Blue Devils 4-3.

Sophomore David Anderson won the clinching match for the Irish last season, earning a victory at No. 5 singles. Anderson has broken the lineup once this season with a loss to No. 108 Drew Courtney of Virginia.

“Each of us has lost a key player from last year’s squads,” Bayliss said. “However both teams have added strong freshmen … I expect this match to go down to the wire.”

In addition to new players, the Blue Devils also have a new coach in Ramsey Smith, a former Duke player. Smith’s father, Stan, was former world No. 1 and a Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion.

On Sunday evening, Notre Dame will again try to beat a squad for the second straight year. Last season, the Irish were able to defeat Toledo 7-0.

Bayliss said that if any of his players are extended in the Duke match, he has more than capable replacements waiting in the wings.

Bayliss also said that the team has been playing well, but that there is a difference between playing well and finding a way to win.

After hosting these two matches, the Irish will travel to Michigan State on Feb. 14 for a 12 p.m. match in East Lansing, Mich.