NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Led by convincing victories in doubles and at third and sixth singles, the 25th-ranked Notre Dame men’s tennis team rolled to a convincing 5-2 victory against No. 6 Illinois Tuesday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The win was Notre Dame’s first against a top-10 team since the Irish beat Illinois on March 29, 2009. It was also the highest-rated opponent Notre Dame had defeated since March 7, 2002, when the Irish knocked off the fifth-ranked Illini, 4-3.
“A win like this is really going to help us the rest of the season,” Irish head coach Bobby Bayliss said. “Illinois is a top-10 team and will remain at the top the rest of the season. It is going to help us in positioning ourselves in the end of the year rankings for the NCAA Tournament. The goal is still to be a host team and we have some work ahead of us. Tonight both teams were a little short-handed and it was great to see our guys respond in a competitive situation.”
Notre Dame jumped out to an early 1-0 lead ahead of the Illini as the second doubles tandem of junior Casey Watt and Stephen Havens handled Connor Roth and Stephen Hoh in an 8-2 match. Senior captain Tyler Davis and freshman Greg Andrews clinched the doubles point shortly after, downing Bruno Abdelnour and Brian Alden, 8-2.
The Irish entered the singles portion of the match with confidence as sophomore Blas Moros easily defeated Connor Roth in under an hour, 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 6 position to increase Notre Dame’s lead to 2-0. Moros’ victory moved his dual singles record to 7-2.
“Blas was in control the whole match,” Bayliss said. “The difference tonight and in some of the other matches he has played was his ability to get into the net and finish points. We know he has great ground strokes, but a lot of time he does not capitalize on what he has created off of the ground strokes.”
Havens jumped out to a 4-0 lead at second singles before the senior fell 6-4, 6-1 to Roy Kalmanovich.
Senior Daniel Stahl downed No. 65 Souza in a two-set match (6-4, 6-1) to move the Irish lead to 3-1. Stahl’s victory against Souza was his second consecutive win against a ranked opponent and the highest rated opponent he had beaten since Florida State’s 55th-ranked Clint Bowles on March 14, 2010.
Andrews dropped a hard-fought match to Hoh at fourth singles. The freshman won the first set, 7-6 (7-4), before falling in consecutive 6-4 sets.
Junior Niall Fitzgerald clinched the match for the Irish with a win over Abdelnour, 7-6 (7-0), 3-6, 6-3. The three-set match improved Fitzgerald’s singles record to 2-2.
No. 64 Watt rounded out the Irish score at first singles as he defeated 62nd-ranked Hamui in a three-set match, 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-2 to complete the match.