Junior Brett Helgeson enters Sunday's competition ranked 11th nationally in singles action.

#16 Irish Fall To Louisville In BIG EAST Final

April 23, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. – The top-seeded and 16th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (17-8) lost 4-1 to second-seeded and 31st-ranked Louisville (18-7) in the title match of the BIG EAST Conference Championship Sunday afternoon at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts. The Cards got out to a quick start, but eventually five of the six singles matches were decided by third sets, with Louisville taking two of the three that were completed.

Louisville won the doubles point and appeared to be on its way to a decisive victory when it took the opening set in all but one singles match. But the Irish fought back and forced third sets in five matches, while the Cards got a tight straight-set win at No. 6 to go up 2-0.

Freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) provided what would be Notre Dame’s only victory on the day when he defeated Damar Johnson 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 3, avenging a straight-set defeat in the regular-season finale. The ND rookie is 21-10 on the season and 14-9 in dual action.

The No. 2 match between Jakob Gustafsson and 35th-ranked Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) came down to a third-set tiebreaker, which the Cardinal won to take a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) triumph. It was a departure for the Irish sophomore, who had been 14-1 in tiebreakers this season prior to Sunday.

The final point was provided by Louisville’s 53rd-ranked Slavko Radman, who knocked off 18th-ranked junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1. Bass had won the match earlier this month between the two, and he held a 4-2 lead in the final set before Radman reeled off four straight games to get the win and hand Louisville the BIG EAST title in its first season in the conference.

The No. 4 match was in a third-set tiebreaker when it was abandoned. Louisville’s Jeremy Clark won the first set 6-4, but Irish junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) stormed back with a 6-0 second-set win, before they split the first 12 games of the final frame. At No. 5, Louisville’s Jhonny Berrido was head 6-3, 3-6, 3-2 against ND junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College).

Though the teams met just 11 days earlier at Notre Dame, and eight of the nine contests featured exactly the same matchups as in the regular-season tilt, Sunday saw extremely different results across the board. In fact, all six matches that finished were won by the player or team that was defeated in the dual match on April 13 at Notre Dame that was won by the Irish in a 5-2 score.

Louisville got 8-4 wins at the top two spots to take the doubles point. At No. 1, Clark and Gustafsson, ranked 43rd, avenged a tiebreaker defeat against the 25th-ranked duo of Keckley and senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.). The clinching win came from Johnson and Berrido at No. 2, as they topped King and Parbhu. The bottom match saw Radman and Tony Teufel with a 7-4 edge over Helgeson and sophomore Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/Tenney School).

The only straight-set affair was the No. 6 match, where Nicolas Houard won 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 against Langenkamp.

Louisville became just the second different team – along with Miami (Fla.), which beat the Irish nine times from 1996-2004 – ever to hand Notre Dame a defeat in conference play. The Cards also won 4-0 in last year’s NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame was the runner-up in the event for the fifth time, having also finished second in 1997, ’98, 2000, and ’01. Sunday snapped a 10-match winning streak for the Irish in the event, which dated back to the ’01 final against Miami.

The Irish will now await the May 3 announcement of the NCAA tournament field. The event begins on campus sites May 12.

[No. 2 seed] #31 Louisville 4, [No. 1 seed] #16 Notre Dame 1SinglesNo. 1:  * #53 Slavko Radman (L) def. #18 Stephen Bass (ND) 2-6, 6-4, 6-4No. 2:  Jakob Gustafsson (L) def. #35 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2)No. 3:  Brett Helgeson (ND) def. Damar Johnson (L) 6-7, 6-3, 6-2No. 4:  Jeremy Clark (L) vs. Ryan Keckley (ND) 6-4, 0-6, 6-6, abandonedNo. 5:  Jhonny Berrido (L) led Barry King (ND) 6-3, 3-6, 3-2, abandonedNo. 6:  Nicolas Houard (L) def. Eric Langenkamp (ND) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3Order of Finish: 6, 3, 2, 1*DoublesNo. 1:  #43 Clark/Gustafsson (L) def. #25 Keckley/Langenkamp (ND) 8-4No. 2:  * Berrido/Johnson (L) def. King/Parbhu (ND) 8-4No. 3:  Radman/Tony Teufel (L) led Helgeson/Andrew Roth (ND) 7-4, abandonedOrder of Finish: 1, 2** - indicates clinching victory