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Men’s Tennis: Unbeaten Wildcats set to visit

Kate Grabarek | Thursday, February 19, 2009

No. 25 Notre Dame will host an undefeated Northwestern team today that Irish coach Bobby Bayliss called one of the most improved in the country.

“They are off to a great start at 10-0 and have terrific depth,” Bayliss said. “I expect a great challenge. We have played a more difficult schedule to date than they, and I hope that gives us a slight edge in the close matches because they have dominated most of their early opponents.

“They have several players who really make you earn what you get and they play good doubles.”

Notre Dame most recently downed previously-undefeated Michigan State, 6-1, Sunday in East Lansing, Mich., which Bayliss said had been a tough place for the Spartans’ opponents of late.

One key for the Irish this season has been their doubles play.

“Our doubles has held up pretty well so far,” Bayliss said. “For us to make a significant dent on the national scene we will need to lock down our lower positions because I thought our depth was going to be our strength.”

Notre Dame has eight underclassmen – three freshmen and five sophomores – in its top nine lineup slots, which has led to some inconsistency.

“We knew that we were throwing them into the deep end, hoping that they would swim, and we have been pretty competitive,” Bayliss said. “Maturity has been a key and the competitive spirit our younger guys have displayed has been remarkable at times. 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.”

It appears the Irish have begun that improvement, as Notre Dame rides a four-game win streak heading into today’s 4 p.m. match against Northwestern.

The Irish will hit the road Saturday for a 12 p.m. start at Ohio State, one of the nation’s top teams.