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Men’s Tennis: Team to face three opponents

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, February 26, 2010

No. 31 Notre Dame will have a busy weekend, as the Irish host Michigan State Saturday before a home doubleheader with Wisconsin and Toledo Sunday.

“Each of these opponents bring something special to the table,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

The Irish (3-5) return to their home courts this weekend after playing their last five matches on the road. Notre Dame was most recently defeated 4-3 by No. 26 Washington in Seattle on Feb. 20. The Huskies were Notre Dame’s seventh ranked opponent in eight matches — four of which were decided by one point.

“We are really excited to have the opportunity to compete at home this weekend,” Bayliss said. “It will be a challenge to play three matches in two days, but we feel that we are ready and want to show how much we have improved in several areas.”

Washington gained an early lead by winning all three of the doubles matches and the points at singles Nos. 1, 4 and 5. The Irish got on the board at Nos. 2, 3 and 6 singles.
This weekend, the Irish will look to continue their series leads over the Spartans, Badgers and Rockets.

The Irish lead the all-time series against Michigan State 46-32 and have won the last 20 meetings between the teams dating back to 1989. Under Bayliss, Notre Dame holds a 19-1 record, last dropping a home match to Michigan State 5-4 in 1985. The Spartans are 7-3 this season, going 5-1 in their last six matches.

“Michigan State graduated their top two players from last year’s team, but have landed a terrific freshman in Dennis Bogatov from Chicago, someone we recruited last year,” Bayliss said. “He gives them punch in the mid-lineup and is a talented shot-maker and the Illinois state high school champion from last year. Ronnie Huliwitz plays at No. 1 and is a tough out. He makes very few mistakes. Austin Brooks is at No. 2 and features a strong forehand and great quickness.”

Similarly, the Irish lead the series with Wisconsin, 47-16, and have won 17 of the last 19 meetings. But the Badgers took both meetings between the teams last season.

“Wisconsin has spent time in the top 25 this year and has great strength in the top of their lineup,” Bayliss said. “Moritz Bauman is from Germany and beat us twice last year, downing Brett Helgeson in straight sets at the Blue Gray National Classic. He is a lefty with a great backhand and serve and has extraordinary court presence. He is ranked No. 7 in the country. Marek Michalika plays No. 2 and is almost as tough. They will be our biggest challenge of the weekend.”

Notre Dame and Toledo have also met numerous times, with the Irish holding a 24-2 edge on the Rockets. Bayliss has led his team to a 6-0 record over Toledo, and will look to continue that in their third match of the weekend Sunday. The Rockets enter the match with a 6-6 record.

“Toledo finished third in the MAC in 2009 and has a veteran presence at the top of their lineup featuring several international players,” Bayliss said. “It will be a challenge to take them on almost immediately after playing what is likely to be an emotional match with Wisconsin. This will be a physical challenge, but we have trained hard this year and believe we can handle it.”

The Irish will face Michigan State Saturday at 3 p.m., Wisconsin at Sunday at 2 p.m. and Toledo Sunday at 6 p.m. All matches will be played in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

“Certainly we will try to take advantage of our depth and keep fresh players coming in the three match, 30-hour period,” Bayliss said. “We have experimented with some changes in our doubles lineup and will see how any of the new combinations perform. We feel we have 10 guys who can play pretty good singles and another couple who add punch to our doubles.

“We have lost three matches 4-3 so far and all were against teams with top 20 resumes or expectations. Coming close is not the goal, so we hope to get the chance to finish off another with the score at 3-3.”