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Men’s Tennis: Irish look to succeed at home

Kate Grabarek | Friday, February 18, 2011

The No. 23 Irish will try to continue their four-match winning streak this weekend when they play host to No. 27 Michigan and No. 24 North Carolina at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

“This weekend we are facing two teams that traditionally are ranked among the nation’s elite,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Michigan is getting better each week and North Carolina is continuing last year’s pace when they were a top-20 team all year.”

The Irish (6-3) have had a strong doubles presence in all of their matches so far this year, winning the doubles point in all but one match.

Notre Dame returns all of its starters from last year and therefore boasts a lineup with a lot of experience.

“Doubles will certainly matter,” Bayliss said. “We feel that we have the depth to compete with both teams down low and a lot will depend on how much poise we can demonstrate, because both teams are going to battle down to the wire.”

No. 77 junior Casey Watt, who heads the lineup at first singles, will also be key.

The Irish placed both of their top two doubles teams in the top 60 teams in the nation in the most recent ITA Rankings.

Seniors Stephen Havens and Tyler Davis are currently ranked No. 28. Junior Niall Fitzgerald and sophomore Spencer Talmadge are ranked No. 51.

Complementing the wealth of starters returning from last year’s squad is a talented group of freshmen that will help the Irish maintain their talent level for years to come.

“We could not be more excited about this year’s freshmen,” Bayliss said. “Greg Andrews has been all that we expected and we expected a lot. He has been rock solid and demonstrated poise in the face of significant adversity.”

The Wolverines started off last season’s match strong, winning all three doubles matches, but the Irish will look to earn the point this season. Last season the Irish fell 4-3 to the Wolverines in a close match.

In the singles lineup in that match the Irish had very close matches and will be facing many of the same players as both teams return many starters.

The Irish are hoping that a change of venue from last year will make the difference.

“Both teams are very well coached and will be well prepared,” Bayliss said. “I am hoping that playing on our own courts in front of our fans will give us an edge, but I expect both matches to go right down to the wire. It will be a challenge for our top players to line up with those on both teams.”

The Irish will look to continue their winning ways beginning with Michigan on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.