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Men’s Tennis: No. 28 Irish fall to Cardinals

Matt Unger | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In a potential Big East championships preview, the No. 28 Irish proved they still have work to do to dethrone reigning tournament champion and No. 1 conference tournament seed Louisville.

The No. 29 Cardinals (14-11, 2-0 Big East) dispatched the Irish 4-3, splitting six singles matches and sweeping all three doubles matches Saturday at an indoor match in Louisville.

The match provided a sour conclusion to a strong regular season for the Irish, who nevertheless hold the No. 2 seed in the upcoming nine-team Big East conference tournament, hosted by Notre Dame (15-9, 2-1).

In No. 1 singles, last year’s NCAA runner-up and Cardinal senior Austen Childs defeated Irish junior Casey Watt in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

“[Childs] is one of the better college tennis players in the country,” Irish coach Bob Bayliss said. “He has outstanding groundstrokes and counters very well off the baseline with no real weaknesses to exploit.”

Irish seniors Stephen Havens and Daniel Stahl also fell in straight sets in No. 2 and No. 3 singles to Cardinal seniors Viktor Maksimcuk and Simon Childs, respectively.

While Notre Dame’s top three singles players have each lost to Louisville foes three times, Bayliss believes they can fare better if the teams meet on the Irish home court in the conference tournament.

“The indoor courts at Louisville are very fast and [ours] are slower, giving us a chance to counter some of their big shots,” Bayliss said. “We can win at least one of those spots because our guys are playing with more confidence.”

In the bottom half of singles play, the Irish proved as dominant as the Cardinals were in the top half of singles, winning three matches in straight sets. Especially impressive was Notre Dame freshman Greg Andrews’ dominating victory over his junior opponent Robert Hall 6-2, 6-1, in No. 4 singles.

However, the Irish’s struggles in doubles play ultimately cost them the match against the Cardinals. Despite being competitive in every match, the Irish fell short in No. 1 and No. 3 doubles by the score of 8-6 and fell in No. 2 doubles 8-4.

“We learned that we need to start out winning the doubles point,” Bayliss said. “We were up a break at both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles, only to lose [each match].”

No. 2 seed Notre Dame, with the advantage of hosting the Big East Tournament from April 28 to May 1, will face No. 7 seed Georgetown in the quarterfinal round Friday at 9 a.m. at the Courtney Tennis Courts.

The winner of the tournament earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA championships.