April 13, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 17th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (15-7, 1-0) wound up the regular season by posting a 5-2 victory over #29 Louisville (15-7, 1-1) Thursday afternoon at the Courtney Tennis Center in a battle of the two highest-ranked teams in the BIG EAST Conference. The Irish presumably locked up the top seed in next week’s league tournament and also finished with a 9-0 record at home this season (including one exhibition match), marking the first time since 1973-74 that Notre Dame has gone unbeaten at home (including exhibition contests).
The Irish registered a pair of upsets of nationally-ranked teams to win the doubles point for the first time since St. Patrick’s Day and then got straight-set victories at Nos. 1, 5, and 6 in singles to clinch the triumph against the team that eliminated them from the 2005 NCAA Championship. Notre Dame then won a match tiebreaker at No. 2 in the only match undecided after two sets to provide the final margin.
The win presumably has locked up the top seed in the BIG EAST Conference Championship for the Irish, who are the highest-ranked squad in the league and now have a victory over the only other BIG EAST team to be among the national top 75. It would be the second year in a row and eighth time in 11 years of league membership that Notre Dame earned the event’s top seeding. The tournament will run April 21-23 at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts in Tampa. If the Irish are the #1 seed, they will play at Noon (ET) on each day, as long as they continue to win. The full draw will be released next week.
Notre Dame began by winning in an extremely tight doubles portion of the match. All three matches were undecided until the very end, with two going to tiebreakers and the other seeing one late break be the difference. The Irish had lost the doubles point in their last four opportunities and seven of their last nine chances coming into Thursday, but they finished the regular season going 10-10 in taking the doubles point, thanks to a pair of wins against ranked squads.
First finished were junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.), who knocked off the 60th-ranked squad of Jhonny Berrido and Damar Johnson at No. 2 by an 8-5 score. The match was on serve, but the Irish came through with a break at 6-5 and then served it out. It was just the second time King and Parbhu had played together this season and the first since the dual-match opener on Jan. 21. They also won at No. 2 then. The Louisville team had been 14-4 on the season.
Senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.), ranked 32nd but pairing together for the first time since Jan. 21, came through with the decisive blow, knocking off the 28th-ranked team of Jeremy Clark and Jakob Gustafsson 9-8 (7-3) at No. 1 to give Notre Dame the point. The Irish duo is now 3-0 against ranked squads this season. Langenkamp is 15-10 overall in doubles, including 12-8 in dual play; both of those win totals are team bests.
Notre Dame nearly came through with its first doubles sweep since Feb. 15, but Slavko Radman and Tony Teufel eventually won 9-8 (7-5) against junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and freshman Santiago Montoya (Scottsdale, Ariz./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) at No. 3. The Irish duo is now winless in three matches together, including two consecutive tiebreaker defeats.
King made short work of Berrido, a senior from the Dominican Republic, in singles, winning 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 to put Notre Dame ahead 2-0. The Irishman is 13-8 on the season, and Notre Dame is a team-best 17-5 on the spring at No. 5 singles.
Louisville got on the board with Clark posting a 6-2, 6-2 win against Keckley – who returned to the lineup after missing the last Irish match due to illness – at No. 4. Keckley had a 12-match home winning streak in singles ended.
Langenkamp – playing in the final regular-season home match of his career – topped another senior, Frenchman Nicolas Houard, 6-0, 6-4 at No. 6 after winning 10 of the first 11 games in the match. The Irish veteran moved to 13-9 this season, including 9-4 in dual play. Langenkamp finished his career with a 30-9 (.769) singles record at home, including a current string of six straight victories. He also was 24-13 at home in doubles.
Bass, ranked 16th in the nation, got the clinching win for the fourth time this season – this time as he celebrated his 21st birthday – with a 6-1, 6-3 victory against the Croat, 71st-ranked Radman, at No. 1. The ND junior is 26-9 this season, including 13-8 in dual play at No. 1. He is 15-9 against nationally-ranked players. Bass has won 15 in a row at home and stands a perfect 11-0 in his career in singles matches at the Courtney Tennis Center.
Johnson, a native of Jamaica, spoiled the 19th birthday of one of Bass’ teammates, freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.), in a 7-5, 6-3 decision at No. 3.
Parbhu, ranked 31st, then came back for a 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10-3) win against the Swede, Gustafsson, at No. 2 to provide the final margin. The ND sophomore has won five in a row and leads the team with a 27-6 overall record this season, including 16-4 in dual matches. He continued to be successful at bouncing back from slow starts, as Parbhu evened his record at 6-6 this season when dropping the opening set. He also continued to be a master of tiebreakers, as he is now 14-1 in tiebreakers this season (11-1 traditional, 3-0 match tiebreakers).
It was just Louisville’s second-ever trip to Notre Dame for men’s tennis, and the first since 1957. The Irish now lead the all-time series by a 5-1 count.
Notre Dame won all eight of its home matches this spring and also beat USC in the fall, with none of those contests even being decided by a 4-3 score. The last time the Irish went unbeaten in the spring at home was during the 1991-92 season – which saw Notre Dame advance all the way to the title match of the NCAAs. But USC got an exhibition win at ND in the fall of that campaign, so the last squad to truly go an entire season without tasting a home defeat was the ’73-74 unit that was 11-0 at home and 18-2 overall.
Notre Dame has now won five consecutive matches against BIG EAST competition, dating back to the 2003-04 campaign. The Irish hold a 92-2 (.979) all-time record against the current members of the BIG EAST.
The Irish have reached the title match of the BIG EAST tournament every year since becoming a league member in 1995-96 and have won five championships (1996, ’99, 2002, ’04, and ’05) and saw the ’03 final rained out with no winner declared.
#17 Notre Dame 5, #29 Louisville 2SinglesNo. 1: * #16 Stephen Bass (ND) def. #71 Slavko Radman (L) 6-1, 6-3No. 2: #31 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Jakob Gustafsson (L) 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10-3)No. 3: Damar Johnson (L) def. Brett Helgeson (ND) 7-5, 6-3No. 4: Jeremy Clark (L) def. Ryan Keckley (ND) 6-2, 6-2No. 5: Barry King (ND) def. Jhonny Berrido (L) 6-1, 6-1No. 6: Eric Langenkamp (ND) def. Nicolas Houard (L) 6-0, 6-4Order of Finish: 5, 4, 6, 1*, 3, 2DoublesNo. 1: * #32 Keckley/Langenkamp (ND) def. #28 Clark/Gustafsson (L) 9-8 (7-3)No. 2: King/Parbhu (ND) def. #60 Berrido/Johnson (L) 8-5No. 3: Radman/Tony Teufel (L) def. Bass/Santiago Montoya (ND) 9-8 (7-5)Order of Finish: 2, 1*, 3* - indicates clinching victory