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Men’s Tennis: Irish struggle against Rola, No. 2 Buckeyes

Andrew Owens | Thursday, April 14, 2011

No. 2 Ohio State avoided No. 28 Notre Dame’s upset bid in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday in a 5-2 victory that improved the Buckeyes’ home record to a perfect 14-0.

At No.1 singles, Ohio State freshman Blaz Rola, ranked No. 5 nationally, outlasted Irish junior Casey Watt 6-3, 6-0 in the first of four victories at the singles positions for the Buckeyes.

“[Rola] is really good,” Irish associate head coach Ryan Sachire said. “He’s ranked No. 5 for a reason. He earned it. He is clearly a top-10 player.”

Junior Chase Buchanan defeated Notre Dame senior Stephen Havens at the No. 2 singles position, 6-1, 6-3. Buchanan is currently ranked No. 12 overall in the latest position rankings.

Watt and Havens combined to form the No. 2 doubles team and fell to the No. 66 doubles team of Buchanan and senior Shuhai Uzawa, 8-6.

Notre Dame’s only doubles victory came in the No. 1 duo of sophomore Spencer Talmadge and junior Niall Fitzgerald. They topped Ohio State’s top doubles combination and the No. 12-ranked pair in the country, 8-6, in the most impressive win of the day for the Irish.

“[Talmadge and Fitzgerald] played really well,” Sachire said. “They had to come out competitively and they did. They broke the serve in the first game and went up 1-0. It was the only break of the match. At No. 1, you don’t get too many opportunities and you have to take advantage of them when you do get them. It was a really good win for them.”

The Irish added two singles victories on the afternoon, most notably at the No. 3 singles position, where senior Dan Stahl defeated freshman Ille Van Engelen, 6-3, 6-2. On paper it was the most evenly matched contest of the day, with Stahl ranked No. 99 nationally and Van Engelen only 13 spots behind him at No. 112.

“Stahl has been great for us all season,” Sachire said. “He’s playing really well right now. It’s one of those things where none of us are surprised [by his success]. It’s a tribute to his work ethic and attitude. He’s a really good tennis player and I’m happy to see him succeed.”

The Irish will have another 10-day break before facing Big East rival Louisville on the road in the regular season finale on April 23.