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Men’s Tennis

Singles power Irish in Bobby Bayliss Invitational

| Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Notre Dame competed in its second team tournament of the fall season, hosting the Bobby Bayliss Invitational Tournament at Eck Tennis Pavilion over the weekend. At the same time, seniors Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar were eliminated in the quarterfinals of ITA All-American Championships.

Covalschi and Hagar, ranked 26th in the country as a doubles pair, pulled off two major upsets to reach the quarters, first beating the nation’s No. 8 pair and then the 15th-ranked pair. However, the No. 3 pair out of Wake Forest proved too much for the Irish duo on Saturday.

On Friday at the Bobby Bayliss Invitational, the Irish were powered to singles wins by sophomore Alex Lebedev, junior Brendon Kempin, sophomore Daniel Rayl, freshman Johnathan Small, sophomore Nathan Griffin and junior Drew Dawson. Irish pairs failed to record a win in any of the seven doubles matches on Friday.

Saturday was more of the same story as freshman Guillermo Cabrera and freshman Matt Gamble joined Lebedev, Rayl, Small and Kempin as singles winners.

On Sunday, Lebedev won his singles match 7-6(8), 7-6(3). Dawson, Griffin and Small also won their singles matches in straight sets. The pair of Kempin and Small, as well as Cabrera and Griffin, logged wins in doubles play.

Irish assistant coach Cris James said the team did well overall after a slow start.

“We started very poorly on Friday morning with our doubles, but since then we turned it around,” James said. “In the fall tournaments, guys are playing individually so there is a lot of mixed results. There’s some good and some bad, but I would say, overall, our team definitely made progress over the weekend. The guys got better and that’s what we’re looking for in the fall.”

James said he felt many Irish players improved on facets of their game throughout the weekend.

“Alex Lebedev is a redshirt freshman and I think he’s a guy that is getting better match by match,” James said. “We have a lot of young guys, so they’re all getting better to a certain extent. Brendon Kempin played maybe some of the best tennis of his ND career here this weekend. But obviously when we have nine or ten guys playing, there’s a mixed bag of results. We faced some really good competition this weekend.”

The team needs to improve on the intangibles, James said.

“I think we have a few guys we’re working with to try to have the right energy and the right mindset on the court for high competitive matches,” he said. “I think in some situations, we need to do a little better of a job with our composure and our ability to finish in the big moments. Those are a couple of the main themes from this weekend. I also think we have a ways to go to get our doubles right. Our standard for doubles at Notre Dame is really high. We just had a doubles team in the final eight down in the national tournament down in Tulsa. We didn’t fare quite as well at home this weekend, but again, we have a lot of young guys that have to learn and get integrated into our doubles system.”

When asked who impressed him the most with their play over the weekend, James pointed to a number of players.

“I thought Alex Lebedev had a pretty good weekend,” James said. “Guillermo Cabrera showed some pretty good stuff. Brendon Kempin probably played his best level he has at ND. Drew Dawson played at a pretty good level too. Didn’t get the results every time in those matches, but I think we’re seeing some good signs from those guys.”

The Irish’s next team tournament will be the ITA Midwest Regional Championships from Oct. 20 to 24 at Ohio State, which the Irish will start preparing for after a couple of rest days, James said.

“All of the best teams and players in the Midwest region will be there, so it will be a very high level tournament,” James said. “If you do well there, you qualify for the national indoors later in the fall. The tournament is going to be played indoors so we will probably take a couple of days off to recover here after this tournament, and then we will get back to work. Right now in the fall, it’s just about [the] guys improving individually.”

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