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Men’s Tennis: Tough schedule awaiting Irish

Matt Unger | Wednesday, May 4, 2011

For coach Bobby Bayliss and the Irish tennis team, a bid in the NCAA tournament has become an annual occurrence, as the team was named to the 64-team field yesterday for the 20th time in 21 years. Despite falling to Louisville in the Big East tournament finale Sunday, the team’s body of work impressed the selection committee enough to warrant a bid.

However, if the Irish (17-11) look to advance out of the tournament’s first weekend for the first time since 2007, they will have to overcome a tough tandem of opponents.

In the first round on either May 13 or 14 in Columbus, Ohio, Notre Dame will face East Tennessee State. If the Irish earn a victory in that match, they will likely take on the Big Ten champion, No. 4 Ohio State (30-2), barring a first round upset by Ball St. (15-14).

East Tennessee State (17-6), the Atlantic Sun champion, will look to repeat their 2008 opening round 4-2 defeat of the Irish, which also occurred in Columbus.

The teams did not meet at any tournaments this season, and their only common opponent was Big East champion Louisville. Both squads lost to the Cardinals, although the Buccaneers were shutout 7-0, winning only the No. 2 doubles match. Meanwhile, the Irish fell to Louisville twice in a span of eight days by margins of 4-3 and 4-2.

In No. 1 singles, Notre Dame junior Casey Watt will likely face East Tennessee State senior Grega Teraz. Watt has served as Notre Dame’s No. 1 singles player the past two seasons and compiled a 17-20 record this season, with 14 matches against nationally-ranked opponents. Teraz, meanwhile, was inserted into the No. 1 singles position toward the end of the season, going 6-2 in that role.

Team depth in No. 3 through No. 6 singles has been a big strength for the Irish this season. The Irish hold at least a .640 winning percentage in each of those categories, including a 20-5 mark in No. 6 singles.

If Notre Dame gets past East Tennessee State, they will likely face Ohio State for the right to travel to Stanford for the round of 16.