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Men’s Tennis: Irish split pair of matches at ITA Kick-Off Weekend

Kate Grabarek | Monday, January 31, 2011

The No. 36 Irish went 1-1 this weekend at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Champaign, Ill., as they defeated No. 17 Oklahoma Friday before falling to No. 16 Illinois in the final round Saturday.

“We played extremely well over this past weekend, the best we have played since the 2007 team went to No. 4 in late April,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “In both matches we fought relentlessly and competed as well as anyone can. Our doubles has turned into a strength, as we lost only one of the six doubles matches against two top 20 teams, both of whom are likely to end up in the top 10.”

Notre Dame jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Oklahoma after clinching the doubles point early. Victories from the No. 1 duo of seniors Stephen Havens and Tyler Davis, as well as at No. 2 with junior Niall Fitzgerald and sophomore Spencer Talmadge secured the doubles point and allowed the third doubles match to go unfinished.

In singles No. 122 Davis was able to earn a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 6 over John Warden. Fellow senior Dan Stahl earned the third Irish point at No. 3 singles with his victory over Laurentiu Gavrila, 6-3, 6-4.

At No. 5 singles, junior Sam Keeton dropped the only completed singles match for the Irish in a hard fought battle losing, 6-1, 7-6 (8), to Tsvetan Mihov.

No. 104 junior Casey Watt clinched the victory for the Irish with a victory at No. 1 singles over No. 26 Ionut Beleleu.

The Irish lost a hard-fought battle against the Illini, dropping the match 4-1 to round out the weekend.

At No. 1 doubles, No. 47 Havens and Davis were defeated 8-1 by Dennis Nevolo and Johnny Hamui while the No. 2 doubles duo of Fitzgerald and Talmadge ran up a 6-0 lead before clinching an 8-3 victory to knot the doubles point at 1-1.

“The doubles has been gratifying to see,” Bayliss said. “Fitzgerald and Talmadge have been a real strength for us. Davis-Havens and Watt-Andrews are quite good, with different styles. We need to keep building on this part of our team. We have played all matches to date without injured

David Anderson [last year’s No. 5] and Billy Pecor, who had a strong fall.”

Watt and freshman Greg Andrews secured the doubles point for the Irish with a hard fought 9-7 victory at No. 3 doubles over Brian Alden and Stephen Hoh.

Havens lost a tough match at No. 2 singles to KU Singh in three sets. Keeton also lost in three sets to Roy Kalmanovich.

Watt faced Nevolo and lost also in three sets, and Andrews lost the final match to No. 121 Abe Souza to clinch the match for the Illini.

The Irish will return home next weekend to host Duke at noon and Toledo at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.