Niall Fitzgerald had Notre Dame's decisive singles win against Northwestern.

Irish Men's Tennis Edges Northwestern, 4-3.

Feb. 19, 2009

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Irish men’s tennis team edged Northwestern by a 4-3 margin inside the Eck Tennis Pavilion on Thursday evening. With the win, Notre Dame improves to 6-4 on the season.

Entering the match, the Irish were unbeaten in their last four matches, while the Wildcats carried a perfect 8-0 record into the match. Though Notre Dame jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, Northwestern was able to tie the match at 3-3 before Niall Fitzgerald (Wicklow, Ireland/Blackrock College) came through with the match-clinching win at fifth singles.

The Irish took the doubles point behind wins at first and third doubles. Finishing first, Stephen Havens (Cincinnati, Ohio/Hill Christian School) and Casey Watt (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) fell to Alex Sanborn and Joshua Graves at second doubles by a score of 8-2.

Then at first doubles, Notre Dame’s 13th-ranked tandem of Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West) and Tyler Davis (Nashville, Tenn./Father Ryan HS) faced Marc Dwyer and Tobias Reitz. Helgeson and Davis went up by scores of 4-2 and 6-4 before earning the 8-4 win to tie the doubles match at one win apiece.

At third doubles, Fitzgerald and Matt Johnson (Portage, Mich./Portage Central HS) sealed the doubles point for the Irish with an 8-4 win over Northwestern’s Andrew McCarthy and Alexander Thams. Fitzgerald and Johnson jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Wildcats threatened, as they made the score as close as 6-4. The Irish then held and broke serve for the win.

Watt gave the Irish a 2-0 lead when he defeated Sanborn by a score of 7-6 [7-4], 6-2 at fourth singles. In the decisive second set, Watt fell behind 0-1, gained a 3-2 lead and then rattled off three straight games for the win. He improves to 7-3 in singles play.

Northwestern halved the Irish lead as Sam Keeton (Kansas City, Mo./The Pembroke Hill School) fell to Graves at sixth singles, 6-4, 6-2.

At third singles, 122nd-ranked Daniel Stahl (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) won in straight sets over Thams to give the Irish a 3-1 lead. He won the first set 6-4 and took the second set, 7-5. Stahl is now 5-2 in dual season singles play.

At second singles, Havens entered into a three-set battle with Reitz. Havens took the first set 7-6 (7-2). Reitz countered by taking the second set 6-4. In the third set, Havens fell behind 4-2, but fought back to tie it at 4-4. Reitz then won the next two games two take the set, 6-4, and edge the Wildcats closer.

At first singles Helgeson, ranked 18th, played against Dwyer. Dwyer took the first set 6-4, but Helgeson bounced back to take the second set, 6-1. In the third set both players traded games until Helgeson pulled ahead for a 5-3 lead, but Dwyer eventually proved victorious, 7-5, knotting the overall match score at 3-3.

The match came down to Fitzgerald and Northwestern’s Eric Spector at fifth singles. Fitzgerald dropped the first set, 6-1 but took the second set, 6-2. The third set was tied on three occasions (3-3, 4-4, 5-5) before Fitzgerald was able to pull away for the win. With the set tied at 5-5, Fitzgerald broke serve after two deuces to go up 6-5. Fitzgerald then held serve, clinching the win for the Irish.

The win is Notre Dame’s fifth in a row, and it also marks Notre Dame’s second consecutive win against opponents who had winning streaks of eight matches entering the contest. The Irish have now won six straight versus the Wildcats, dating back to 2004.

The Irish hit the road for a showdown with third-ranked Ohio State on Saturday, February 21. The match is slated to begin at noon. Notre Dame returns home to face 31st-ranked Kentucky on Monday, February 23 at 4:00 p.m.

NOTES: The latest round of ITA Rankings for teams, singles and doubles were released on Thursday … Notre Dame stayed at 25th in the team rankings … senior Brett Helgeson moved up two spots to 18th in the singles rankings … sophomore Daniel Stahl moved to 122nd in the singles rankings … Helgeson and sophomore Tyler Davis jumped 24 spots in the doubles rankings, moving from 37th to 13th … 18th is Helgeson’s highest singles ranking since he was 11th in last season’s preseason (1/8/08) rankings … Helgeson and Davis’ ranking of 13th is the best by a Notre Dame doubles team since Ryan Keckley and Sheeva Parbhu were ranked seventh during the 2007 dual season.

#25 Notre Dame 4, Northwestern 3Eck Tennis Pavilion - Notre Dame, Ind.
Singles competition1. Marc Dwyer (NWU) def. #18 Brett Helgeson (UND) 6-4, 1-6, 7-52. Tobias Reitz (NWU) def. Stephen Havens (UND) 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-43. #122 Daniel Stahl (UND) def. Alexander Thams (NWU) 6-4, 7-54. Casey Watt (UND) def. Alex Sanborn (NWU) 7-6 (7-4), 6-25. Niall Fitzgerald (UND) def. Eric Spector (NWU) 1-6, 6-2, 7-56. Joshua Graves (NWU) def. Samuel Keeton (UND) 6-4, 6-2
Doubles competition1. #13 Brett Helgeson/Tyler Davis (UND) def. Tobias Reitz/Marc Dwyer (NWU) 8-42. Alex Sanborn/Joshua Graves (NWU) def. Stephen Havens/Casey Watt (UND) 8-23. Niall Fitzgerald/Matt Johnson (UND) def. Alexander Thams/Andrew McCarthy (NWU) 8-4
Match Notes:Northwestern 8-1;Notre Dame 6-4; National ranking #25Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3*); Singles (4,6,3,2,1,5*)

— ND —