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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Men's Tennis: Notre Dame drops big match against conference foe

Playing outdoors in the hot, humid Florida weather, the Irish suffered a narrow defeat in Saturday's match at the hands of Big East opponent South Florida, 4-3.

After dropping the doubles point, the Irish (12-7) were not able to win four of the six singles matches needed to take home the overall victory.

The Irish entered the match with high expectations, but encountered challenges - both mental and physical - that prevented them from playing at their highest level, Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

"In a couple of cases, I don't think our guys responded well to some adversity - a little bit of a hostile crowd and a tough situation," Bayliss said. "For us going down to Tampa, it was about 88 degrees in the match with some humidity and we hadn't faced a lot of that obviously.

"I think that put us in a situation where we really had to focus and concentrate and I think that a couple of our guys just came up a little bit short in that department on that day. We certainly went into the match expecting to win or to have a good chance to win."

The day started out poorly for the Irish when both the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams fell 8-5 to the Bulls (5-11).
According to Bayliss, the Irish have played well in doubles lately and the early 1-0 deficit was yet another obstacle.

"In my mind, losing the doubles point was pretty big," Bayliss said. "We've done much better in doubles than South Florida had up to that point. I think we went in expecting to win the doubles point and to be in a 1-0 position starting the singles."

Despite the struggles, senior Casey Watt continued his strong play at No. 1 singles with a straight set victory (7-5, 6-3) over South Florida senior WaelKilani. The victory gives Watt his fifth win in his last six matches.

"I thought Casey Watt played a great match," Bayliss said. "He really gave a great effort and I thought he hit enough big shots and played within himself to wear Kilani out. I thought Casey deserved a lot of credit for that match."

The Irish also received victories from sophomore Billy Pecor and senior Niall Fitzgerald at No. 4 and No. 5 singles, respectively. But three-set losses from sophomore Greg Andrews at No. 2 singles and senior Sam Keeton at No. 3 singles proved to be Notre Dame's undoing.

"In all the matches that we lost, I believe we were capable of winning," Bayliss said. "Certainly there were disappointments. I think if played that match again with the same people, and we may run into them again in the Big East tournament, I would expect to win some close ones we lost."

The Irish will take the upcoming weekend off before they face Ball State on Mar. 31 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Contact Peter Steiner at