If the Michigan men’s tennis team looked into a mirror, it
may appear as if rival Notre Dame was staring right back at it.

Both teams have played a very tough nonconference schedule, have
blown leads to difficult opponents, have excelled in doubles and
have three talented freshmen who play integral roles in singles
play.

Today, No. 48 Michigan and No. 35 Notre Dame won’t see a
reflection of each other in the mirror, but across the net at the
Varsity Tennis Center.

As if the on-court similarities weren’t sufficient enough
to heighten competitive juices for the Wolverines, it is, after
all, Notre Dame.

“(Michigan) could play Notre Dame in tiddlywinks and
there’d be a natural rivalry,” Michigan coach Mark Mees
said.

The home team has won the past six decisions dating back to
1998, but historical home-court advantage becomes less significant
when both teams have three starting freshmen who have proven
successful. Notre Dame’s Stephen Bass, Barry King and Ryan
Keckley are a combined 24-14 this season in dual match play. Their
Michigan counterparts, freshmen Brian Hung, Ryan Heller and Steve
Peretz, are 24-2 this season.

Last week, Heller was named as the Big Ten Conference Athlete of
the Week for men’s tennis — the first men’s
tennis player to earn the award for Michigan in four years.

“(The freshmen) have been pretty good so far and they are
pretty good mentally as well as talented players,” Mees said.
“I think they’ll perform well. I’m excited to see
how they will do (under pressure).”

Notre Dame (10-7) crumbled under pressure last weekend against
No. 27 Mississippi State. The Irish led 3-1 before dropping three
successive singles matches, two of which went to a decisive third
set.

Michigan (8-1) has also shown signs of weakness during crunch
time. In their only loss of the season, the Wolverines dropped a
4-3 decision to No. 39 Florida State. Michigan had a match point in
No. 2 doubles against the Seminoles, but lost the point and
eventually the match — the ultimate difference-maker in the
contest.

The Fighting Irish have posted a 5-2 mark against Big Ten
opponents this season, but Mees doesn’t believe he will be
able to gauge Michigan’s success during the upcoming Big Ten
season by what unfolds on the court today.

“I think a lot of it has to do with pair-ups,” Mees
said. “(Notre Dame’s) just a very good team. Regardless
of what happens (today), we’ll get ready for the two Big Ten
matches this weekend on the road.”

In an attempt to get healthy for the beginning of the Big Ten
season, senior Michael Rubin may not play at his usual No. 1
singles position because of a rib injury. His status will be a
game-time decision. Rubin saw limited action two weeks ago at Ball
State, playing at No. 2 doubles.

Back in September, Rubin defeated Notre Dame’s No. 1
singles player Luis Haddock at the Tom Fallon Invitational. The
Wolverines took two of the three other singles matches against the
Irish at the early-season round robin tournament, but dropped all
three doubles matches.

Today’s reunion should be nothing short of
spectacular.

“What happens in a match like this, there will be a lot of
ebb and flow of emotion,” Mees said. “The tide will
switch several times, and we just have to stay strong for how ever
long it takes.”

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