Men’s Tennis: ND prepares for Irish competition
Peter Steiner | Wednesday, August 22, 2012
After falling short of expectations in the Big East championship and NCAA tournament last year, the outlook on the new Irish season can be defined by one word – opportunity.
Notre Dame has the chance to strengthen its team with a strong class of freshman and will travel abroad to play a national Davis Cup team. In addition, No. 1 singles player junior Greg Andrews can solidify himself as one of the nation’s best players.
A typical fall collegiate tennis season consists of individual tournaments, instead of team matches, and the Irish have five such tournaments scheduled for the next three months. Andrews may also compete in the ITA All-America Championships and the ITA/USTA National Indoor Singles and Doubles Championships in October and November, respectively.
“The fall season is essentially an individual one,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “There is no team scoring in any of the events at a national level.
“Most coaches treat the fall to build and make changes of games of different players on the team and to try to figure what their doubles combinations might be and exactly who might be playing.”
Last May, the Irish graduated No. 1 singles player Casey Watt, as well as lineup mainstays Niall Fitzgerald and Sam Keeton. At least three starting roster spots, therefore, will be open heading into the spring season.
“I think with the graduation of three of our top five players from last year’s team, the focus of the fall is going to be about figuring out who, amongst the returning players and the freshmen, is going to really be in the starting lineup come January,” Bayliss said.
A variety of new players will be competing for these starting spots, as the Irish added five freshmen to their team this year. Four of the signees come from the United States and competed in the Junior Nationals this summer, while freshman Eric Schnurrenberger hails from Switzerland.
“We are really excited about the freshmen that are joining us,” Bayliss said. “Each one of them did some great things over the summer and we feel like each is going to play a big part in Notre Dame over the next four years.”
Although part of the Irish lineup will be up for grabs, Bayliss doesn’t anticipate having any issues at the top spot in the lineup.
“I don’t feel that Greg [Andrews] is going to have any problem moving into the No. 1 spot,” Bayliss said. “He’s going to be one of the better No. 1 [single players] in the country this year. I feel that when you can win at the very top of your lineup you have a chance to be good and Greg gives us that chance.”
Andrews emerged last year as Notre Dame’s top singles player, ending the year ranked No. 54 in the nation. The junior from Richland, Mich., compiled a 35-10 record last season and was also named the Big East Player of the Year.
“Greg made some big strides over the summer,” Bayliss said. “He played in a number of professional events and really gave a great accounting of himself and our program. I predict that he is capable of becoming an All-American this year and really having a breakout season.”
The Irish will begin their fall season with a remarkable experience when they travel to Dublin. The team will face off against the Irish Davis Cup team, which includes former Notre Dame tennis player Barry King, at the renowned Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club on Aug. 31.
“Obviously, the opportunity to go to Ireland and have our guys experience the culture is probably the greatest benefit to going,” Bayliss said. “In addition, is the opportunity to play. We are playing at a great venue called the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club. It’s one of the oldest clubs in the world and it’s the Wimbledon of Ireland.”
The Irish will practice this week before departing for Dublin on Aug. 29.
Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]