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Men’s Tennis: Notre Dame loses Big East championship

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Irish fell 4-0 to No. 15 Louisville in a hard-fought Big East title match to end the tournament at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
Notre Dame (15-12) missed the opportunity to play in the final round last season. The team now moves to 7-5 all-time in Big East title matches.
“While we did not achieve the clear goal of winning the Big East, I was proud of the way we competed against South Florida in the semi-finals to reach the final against Louisville,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.
The Irish defeated Georgetown 4-0 in the opening round Friday to advance to the semifinals by winning the doubles point and three singles matches without dropping a set. Saturday saw Notre Dame defeat South Florida 4-1 to avenge a loss earlier this season where the Bulls defeated the Irish 4-3.
“Louisville was a different story,” Bayliss said. “Despite the 4-0 score, I thought we were in position to win the unfinished matches and make things look more respectable, however, post-season play usually means stopping when the match is clinched, and I think that is appropriate.”
The Cardinals’ depth and experience aided in their victory — their second Big East title.
“They have had a terrific year, being ranked somewhere between 10 and 15 most of the season and it showed,” Bayliss said.
The Cardinals jumped to a 1-0 lead early in the match by winning the doubles point in two tightly contested matches at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions.
At No. 2, Notre Dame junior Tyler Davis and sophomore Niall Fitzgerald lost 8-5 to Austen Childs and Viktor Maksimcuk. Davis and Fitzgerald fell behind early, but tied the match at 4-4. Childs and Maksincuk took four of the next five games for the win to stop the Irish duo’s comeback.
Louisville grabbed the doubles point after the Irish No. 3 pair of juniors David Anderson and Daniel Stahl were defeated by Robert Hall and Chidi Gabriel 8-4. The Cardinals team started with a 4-3 lead that the Irish couldn’t overcome.
The No. 1 doubles match went unfinished after the doubles point had already been won by Louisville. Junior Stephen Havens and sophomore Casey Watt were tied 8-8 with Simon Childs and Alejandro Calligari to go into a tiebreaker. Havens and Watt had been leading 7-5 before Louisville struck back as the match was ended.
“We competed hard in doubles and might have won at No. 1, but they were just a little bit too good,” Bayliss said.
Louisville’s success carried into the singles competition, where Anderson first went down 6-3, 6-0 to Andrew Carter at No. 5 singles and Watt fell 6-0, 6-2 to A. Childs at the No. 1 spot.
Notre Dame fought back in the others singles contests with sophomore Samuel Keeton, Havens, Stahl and freshman Blas Moros all extending their matches. Hall’s 6-3, 6-3 defeat over Moros at No. 6 singles gave Louisville the crown. Hall went on to be named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer.
With its No. 38 ranking, Notre Dame has a strong chance of playing in the NCAA Championships for the 19th time in the past 20 seasons with an at-large bid, and Bayliss said he is confident in his team’s chances.
“Now it is all about getting ready for the NCAAs and making whatever improvements we can to give us a chance to do some damage there,” Bayliss said. “We find out where we will go next week. There are some areas in which we can gain some ground now that we are away from competition for awhile and this is the time to make those moves.”
The Irish will find out their fate at 5 p.m. on May 4 when the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships Selection Show takes place on ESPNEWS.