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Men’s Tennis: Improved Irish look to build off success

Kate Grabarek | Thursday, August 26, 2010

Under the leadership of Irish coach Bobby Bayliss in his 24th season at the helm, the Irish look to continue last season’s success, when they finished second in the Big East after falling to then-No. 15 Louisville in the Big East championship match.

“We return our top 10 players intact from last year’s squad,” Bayliss said. “That almost never happens, so experience is certainly an asset this year. There is no reason that we should lose a match because we are not ready for what faces us.”

While the Irish return their starting lineup from last year, they have also added a talented group of freshmen this fall that should make an immediate impact.

“For the first time since I arrived at Notre Dame, we have two different freshmen who reached the finals in singles of one of the U.S. national events,” Bayliss said, “as Billy Pecor was a finalist in the US Winter Nationals, and Greg Andrews had the same finish in the US Spring Nationals.”

In addition to excellence at the national level among the incoming class, several players attained success both on and off the court over the summer. Senior Dan Stahl competed in ATP Future Events, while several stayed on campus to take summer classes.

“Our summer school guys made good strides, both on the court and in their personal conditioning,” Bayliss said. “Our freshmen were active in high-level junior events. There were some injuries, but all players are back to speed, or very close to it. The level of enthusiasm is high, but it always is. Everyone is undefeated and itching to get after it.”

The Irish face a tough fall schedule in preparation for their full schedule in the spring. Split into two squads, one will compete in the Purdue Invitational and the other at the Illinois Invitational from Sept. 17-19 to help the squad adjust to playing at a high level.

“Being deep enough to do this will give all of our players the opportunity to play in higher positions than would normally be possible. It will allow us to know where our guys are pretty early in the fall.”

Bolstered by a strong incoming class and a strong veteran presence, Bayliss is confident in his team’s potential for the upcoming season.

“Assuming even marginal growth from everyone, we should be good enough to beat elite teams this spring,” Bayliss said. “Add to this mix some promising freshmen who are going to push for starting positions, and you have the potential for a memorable year.”