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Men’s Tennis: Irish head to Alabama for Blue Gray Classic

Kate Grabarek | Thursday, March 19, 2009

After 10 days off, No. 26 Notre Dame will be challenged at the Blue Gray National Classic in Montgomery, Ala., today – a tournament Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said is one of country’s most prestigious.

“All of the teams are nationally ranked,” Bayliss said. “There will be no easy matches and we will be challenged every time we play.”

The Irish will open play against No. 48 Mississippi State at 4 p.m. today. With a win, Notre Dame would advance to play either No. 22 Boise State or No. 41 Oklahoma Friday afternoon.

Despite having to juggle their lineup due to injuries to several usual starters, the Irish enjoyed a strong showing over spring break at the Pacific Coast Doubles in La Jolla, Calif.

The new combination of freshman Casey Watt and senior Santiago Montoya was particularly impressive, Bayliss said.

“Because of a couple of minor injuries we were not able to play all of our regular combinations,” Bayliss said. “But Santiago Montoya and Casey Watt reached the consolation finals and looked pretty good together. They brought interesting chemistry to the table – Santiago’s touch and feel at the net coupled with Casey’s ability to dominate on serve returns and from the back of the court.”

Bayliss said he will continue to search for the right doubles combinations, especially at the bottom of the young but talented Irish lineup.

As expected, senior Brett Helgeson has been a force at the top of the lineup already this season.

Helgeson is currently ranked No. 21 in the nation in singles, and he and his doubles partner, sophomore Tyler Davis, are also ranked No. 21.

Sophomore Stepehen Havens moved up in the lineup this season with the graduation of Sheeva Parbhu and Andrew Roth from last season, and has played consistently at No. 2 doubles with Watt.

Sophomore Dan Stahl also moved up in the lineup this season and has been a force for the Irish.

“Dan has surprised everyone with his ability to move from No. 6 last year to No. 3 this year,” Bayliss said. “He has superb work ethic and competitiveness. He has a great ability to take time away from his opponents and rock solid ground strokes.”