Notre Dame tennis coach Bobby Bayliss will end his long college career on a high note. The 43-year coaching veteran, who spent 26 of those years in South Bend, claimed his final Big East championship last week with a sweep over Louisville.
Bob Bayliss has won eight Big East titles in his 26 years at Notre Dame.
Bayless took over the Irish tennis program in 1987 and built it from scratch into a regular conference championship contender. Last week, his team won his eighth Big East title. The Irish also won awards for the Freshman of the Year (Quentin Monaghan), Player of the Year (Greg Andrews) and Coach of the Year. Bayliss plans to step down next month after the team competes in the NCAA Tournament.
“It has been a special year in that sense,” Bayliss said. “The quality of the team and the results we’ve had, we could easily be [ranked] No. 10-15 in the country if we had a little better luck.”
Andrews, a junior, played the entire spring season as Notre Dame’s No. 1 singles player and finished with a 17-7 record in the spring. Three of those losses came in tiebreakers or the last set of a match against some of the best collegiate players in the nation. He dropped a close match to Michigan’s Evan King in February and had a lead slip away a month later while playing USC’s Emilio Gomez, the No. 2 singles player in the nation.
He put Notre Dame in the driver’s seat in its championship match with Louisville last week with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over the Cardinals’ top player. The only player on the Irish team this year with a better winning percentage is the rookie Monaghan.
In his first year of college, Monaghan won 18 of his 22 spring matches. He picked up the fourth and final match the Irish needed to clinch their conference crown.
“I think Quentin’s ceiling is pretty high. There are still things that he doesn’t do at the highlest level,” Bayliss said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone who has a knack for winning quite like he has. He really hates to lose.”
All of Monaghan’s teammates were determined to send out their longtime coach with a victory in the Big East Tournament. They made T-shirts with “Bayliss’ Last Stand” printed on the back and reminded themselves about their outgoing coach in several other ways throughout the year. Bayliss was concerned that their drive would end up backfiring.
“I think the guys themselves were trying to win the Big East for me so hard that I was afraid that they were going to put too much pressure on themselves,” he said. “That was my biggest fear.”
But the Irish cruised to a conference title to add to a very successful past couple weeks for the “country club” sports at Notre Dame. The women’s tennis and golf teams both won Big East championships in the past 10 days. The men’s golf team is currently in first place after the opening day of its conference tournament and bid to make a clean sweep.
Junior Brittney Sanders joined Andrews as the “Most Outstanding Player” on the women’s side of the tennis tournament. Freshmen Lindsay Weaver and Talia Campbell split first place in the women’s golf tournament. Both shot six-under-par during the 54-hole competition.
Three of the men’s golfers — senior Paul McNamara, junior Niall Platt and freshman Cory Sciupider — finished the first 18 holes of their tournament in the top 10. Platt led the field for most of the round before dropping back to sixth with a score of 71 (-1) Sunday. McNamara sat in second place after one day, one stroke behind Cincinnati’s David Tepe.
“Paul went out first for us to set a good tone and did a beautiful job. He played an exceptionally solid round, hitting fairways and greens,” head coach Jim Kubinski said in a school-released statement. “Niall had it three-under most of the day, through 15, but made a couple bogeys on 16 and 17. But he really played well all day. Niall has low rounds in him, so it was nice to see him trust his game today."