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Men’s Tennis: ND reloads for NCAA tourney bid

Joe Meixell | Thursday, August 27, 2009

After the graduation of Brett Helgeson, the Irish are looking to build on last season’s success with up-and-coming talent.

“Brett Helgeson brought a level of experience that no one on our current team will have. He was a known nationally elite player and we certainly benefitted from his talent and experience,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “This group does not have a player of his achievements returning, but that does not mean that someone will not be able to be productive at No. 1 singles.”

Junior Stephen Havens, likely to replace Helgeson in the No. 1 spot, will be the biggest returning talent for Notre Dame. Havens was 10-15 last season playing in the No. 2 singles spot.

“On paper that will be the biggest challenge facing us this year … to find someone capable of productivity [in the No. 1 singles position]. Last year, Havens at times played like that player, but he needs to demonstrate the match-to-match consistency that was missing a year ago,” Bayliss said. “Certainly he has the ball striking ability to win at the top. Adding a stronger presence at the net will give him a chance to see just how good he can become.”

Sophomore Casey Watt will also be called on to step up and contribute for Notre Dame this season. Bayliss noted that he had a good season last year, but that he too needs to improve his net play in order to realize his full potential.

Junior Dan Stahl proved to be a good find for the Irish last season playing at the No. 3 singles position after moving up the lineup.

“Stahl showed flashes of brilliance last year, but again at a mid-lineup level,” Bayliss said. “He takes the ball very early and needs to get in and finish better at the net as well as to improve his serve in order to play higher.”

While the Irish come into the season with a deep lineup Bayliss knows that filling the void left by Helgeson will not be easy.

“If we have success in our upper lineup we can be a top 15 team this year,” Bayliss said. “We have an outstanding freshman class that will impact us immediately and return nine of our top 10 singles players from a year ago. Last year we showed the ability to beat top 10 teams like Texas A&M and Illinois, but lost seven 4-3 matches to teams that we were in a position to beat. That is what happens to teams that start five out of six players who are freshmen and sophomores.”

Bayliss noted that both Blas Moros and Michael Moore have had success in Futures events and Junior Nationals respectively throughout the summer.

The Irish will kick off their fall season when they compete in the Illini Invitational in mid-September.