Men’s Tennis: Irish win last nine matches and Big East title
Peter Steiner | Wednesday, May 15, 2013
In a season filled with big matches, the Irish captured their greatest moment of the year when they swept Louisville, 4-0, to claim the last ever Big East conference championship in Irish coach Bobby Bayliss’ final season.
Notre Dame’s season ended in the opening round of the NCAA tournament May 10 when the No. 28 Irish (19-8) lost a four-and-a-half-hour thriller to No. 37 Washington, 4-3. Despite the loss, Notre Dame still finished its spring season strong by winning nine straight matches, including three home victories, en route to its ninth Big East championship.
“The Big East [title] was probably the biggest highlight because of the timing,” Bayliss said. “For our seniors, it was their last opportunity to play at Notre Dame. For me, the last home match I would coach.
“We not only won it, but we won it convincingly. We really overpowered Louisville in the finals and that’s a team has given us difficulty over the years.”
In addition to claiming the team championship, the Irish swept the Big East regular season awards as Bayliss won the Big East Coach of the Year, junior Greg Andrews captured Big East Player of the Year and freshman Quentin Monaghan earned Big East Freshman of the Year.
Leading up to the Big East championships, the Irish had won six straight – a streak that began after Notre Dame fell to then-No. 3 USC, 6-1. Notre Dame faced top-ranked opponents like USC the entire spring season, finishing with a 6-7 record against opponents ranked in the top 50.
Although the Irish lost tough matches to top-10 opponents such as USC and Duke at home, they claimed victories over No. 21 Michigan, 4-3, and No. 13 Illinois, 4-0, at the Eck Pavilion.
“Beating Michigan and Illinois here … stick out in my mind as highlights,” Bayliss said. “They are traditional powers and we had really exciting matches against them.
“We played well against [USC] in a match we lost. Although the score was 6-1, there were a whole lot of three-set matches.”
In a fall season usually geared more toward individual play, the Irish had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a team to play Ireland’s Davis Cup team in Dublin, Ireland on Aug. 31. Notre Dame lost the exhibition match, 9-3, but the entire trip was still a remarkable experience, according to Bayliss.
“Another thing that stood out [from the fall season] was the fantastic opportunity to go to Ireland to play the Irish Davis Cup players and see the Navy-Notre Dame football game,” Bayliss said. “What a great opportunity that was for our team.”
On May 10, the Irish fell to Washington in the NCAA tournament in Columbus, Ohio. While the team’s season is finished, Andrews will continue his season at the NCAA Singles Tournament, as the junior earned the Big East’s automatic qualifying spot.
“Greg’s really had a great year,” Bayliss said. “He’s played a lot of the better players in the country and he has been a whisker from some great wins that would elevate him to a very high ranking. And hopefully this will be the stage to put him over the top and he can finish the year with a bang.”
Andrews will play in the opening round of the singles tournament May 22 in Champaign, Ill.
Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]