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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Men's Tennis: Young squad will host Tom Fallon Invitational

Senior Brett Helgeson will head to the ITA All-American Championships this weekend, while the rest of the team will stay in South Bend to host the Tom Fallon Invitational.

"We are sending Brett Helgeson to the All-American Championships," head coach Bobby Bayliss said. "He was ranked highly enough nationally to get into the main draw of the top 64 collegiate tennis players in the country. He has worked hard this fall and has improved on his transition skills and his ability to get to net and finish there."

Bayliss also noted that this year's squad is very young and inexperienced. The Irish have four freshman and six sophomores currently on the roster.

"There are two words to describe our team: young and deep," Bayliss said. "We are lacking in experienced upper lineup players. Our depth is strong. It is difficult to know who will start this year in singles because we have eight or nine players who have shown, at times, that they are very capable of winning in the lower lineup slots."

The Irish are coming off an impressive showing at the Wolverine Invitational, where they took five of the seven singles matches from a Michigan team that advanced to the Sweet 16 a year ago. Even more impressive about the five victories over the Wolverines was that none of those victories came from Helgeson who was out with an injury.

Bayliss also noted that the team's showing against Miami was a good sign of things to come, and a testament to the potential the team has.

This weekend the team, minus Helgeson will host the Tom Fallon Invitational. The tournament field includes Harvard, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Ball State.

"We approach this tournament on two fronts," Bayliss said. "One, to see how we stack up against the other teams. And two, to give each individual the opportunity to garner some good wins. We will move our players up and down the lineup to see what each might be able to achieve. The field will give us some indication of how far we need to go before January when we open with Pepperdine."

Bayliss said he has a lot of confidence in his freshman class, which has been led by Casey Watt and Niall Fitzgerald.

"Casey Watt can be an impact freshman, and Niall Fitzgerald is improving by leaps and bounds," Bayliss said. "[Freshman] Sam Keeton has his arm in a cast, but has taken that opportunity to add better net play and a slice backhand to his repertoire."

The Irish will look to show the rest of the teams at the Tom Fallon Invitational how dangerous they can be, with the tournament opening on Friday. Helgeson will open today at the All-American Championships.