The Irish hope to build on last season’s success with a strong returning cast. With their entire lineup returning and the addition of talented freshmen to the mix, U. Notre Dame expects to have the depth it needs to compete on the highest level.
“The freshmen are doing really well,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Greg Andrews has one of the better forehands you will see this year and has become better moving forward and finishing at the net. Billy Pecor has a big game, hitting with power from both sides. All he needs to do is play within himself and continue to take advantage of his opportunities to move forward. Ryan Bandy is a better athlete than I realized and can hurt you off the ground. Matt Dooley is very athletic and has a very complete game. He simply needs to cut down on his errors while continuing to play his natural aggressive all-court game. These guys are going to impact us tremendously this year.”
This weekend, the Irish will be traveling to two different early season invitationals — the Illinois Invitational and the Purdue Invitational.
Associate head coach Ryan Sachire will take half the team to Purdue, and Bayliss will take the other half to the Illinois Invitational.
Last season the Irish wrapped up the Illinois Invitational with six individual singles wins including an impressive win for junior Casey Watt over Illinois’ Connor Roth in three sets.
“The two events this weekend are on different surfaces,” Bayliss said. “The Illinois Invitational is at Olympia Fields Country Club on clay courts, which will be an adjustment for most of our guys. The other teams all spent time in last season’s top 20 — Wake Forest, Illinois, Alabama, and Florida State — so we are excited about the level of competition, and it should tell us where we are going into the year.
“The Purdue Invitational includes more teams and will be a flighted format. We expect to have the best team we have fielded in several years, and I am excited to see how we stack up.”
Bayliss noted that winning at the top of the lineup, as well as consistently earning the doubles point, will be key for the Irish throughout the season.
“We need to build a toughness in our doubles identity that was missing much of the season,” Bayliss said. “Our strength coach, Chris Sandeen, is doing a great job, and I am confident we will be physically ready pretty soon and for the remainder of the year. I feel that Ryan Sachire is as good as any coach in the country, including head coaches, so I think he gives us an edge as well. At this time, everybody on all teams is excited and working hard.”
Notre Dame will look to show some of their big hitters this weekend before heading to the Harvard Invitational the first weekend in October.