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Men’s Tennis: Irish prepare for road match against Wildcats

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, March 26, 2010

After falling short of their desired finish in the Blue Gray National Classic in Alabama last weekend, the No. 36 Irish will continue their nine-match road swing to take to the courts Saturday to face No. 45 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

“We expect a tough match from Northwestern,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “They have similar balance and are extremely well coached.”

Although Notre Dame (9-8) did not make it to the final round of its last tournament, overall the weekend was a success, marked by a significant milestone for the experienced Bayliss. The victory against Middle Tennessee State in the opening round marked his 700th career win as head coach to come out of the weekend 701-306-1 in 41 seasons (23 at Notre Dame).

“Accumulating 700 wins is more about having been doing this for a long time than anything,” Bayliss said. “There are several other active coaches who have done this, so it isn’t like I broke any kind of record. Certainly being at Notre Dame has given me the opportunity to play on the biggest stage and to do things like playing for the national championship on the last day of the season, beat teams ranked No. 1 at that time, etc.”

What does make reaching this record worthwhile for Bayliss is the individuals who helped him along the way.

“What reaching such a milestone does is to make one sit back and think about all of the players, assistants, and administrators who helped make this possible.,” Bayliss said. “[A]nd in that way it makes everything seem pretty special.”

While Bayliss and his team were excited to celebrate and kept up their winning ways through the first two rounds of the tournament, beating No. 27 Fresno State in the second round.

“The weekend was energizing for us, particularly in beating a very good Fresno State team that has spent a lot of time in the top 20,” Bayliss said. “We are competing better now. Our depth is a real strength and our doubles is beginning to take shape and become a strength.”

The Irish doubles pairs have been one of the team’s most dependable assets this season.

Now that they have found more harmonious and powerful pairings, Notre Dame will look even more to its doubles players to play a role in their upcoming matches, Bayliss said.

Bayliss also said he was excited to see the strength in the lower singles lineup in Alabama last weekend. While the top two positions have been largely consistent, often played by sophomore Casey Watt and junior Stephen Havens, Notre Dame’s other singles players have rotated earlier this season. Bayliss said he is counting on last weekend’s singles strength to continue.

“Because most of the starters are young [everyone who played in the Blue Gray returns next year] we see ups and downs, but a sense of consistency is beginning to form,” Bayliss said.

The Irish will face the Wildcats at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Combe Indoor Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill.