May 21, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. – The 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (19-9) saw its dual-match season come to an end Saturday evening in a 4-0 decision against top-seeded and undefeated national #1 Georgia (28-0) in the round of 16 of the NCAA Division I Championship at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Stadium. The Irish were playing in the final 16 in the NCAAs for the first time since 2002 and also posted their most victories since that campaign.
Georgia took a tightly-contested doubles point and then got a trio of quick straight-set victories to end the match. ND had won opening sets on two of the other courts and was poised to force a third set in the other abandoned match.
Notre Dame stayed with the Bulldogs in doubles, even though the squads have had opposite fortunes in partnered play this season; Georgia has won the doubles point in 25 of 27 chances this season, while the Irish did so just 12 times in 26 opportunities. First off the court was the 20th-ranked team of Australian Strahinja Bobusic and Colin Purcell, who won 8-4 against junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and sophomore Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/Tenney School) at No. 3. The UGA duo moved to 25-9 on the season, including 16-5 in dual play. It was just the third time this season that Bass and Roth played together – and the first since Oct. 21.
The Irish hung with Georgia’s top two doubles teams, staying on serve for virtually the entire match before the Bulldogs’ returns got hot late on both courts. The defending NCAA doubles champions, John Isner and Mexican Antonio Ruiz, eventually clinched the match’s initial point with an 8-6 win over the 28th-ranked team of senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, INd./St. Joseph’s H.S.) at No. 1. Neither team could muster a service break until the 13th game, when Georgia got the benefit of a net-cord winner that popped over Keckley’s head and nestled into the back corner and then saw the Irish junior put a backpedaling overhead into the net on break point. The 6-9 Isner then served out the match, punctuating it with an overhead down the middle on match point. The UGA squad, ranked ninth in the nation this year, moved to 21-5 on the season (17-4 at No. 1), while the ND team lost its fourth in a row.
The Bulldog team of Luis Flores of Mexico and Matic Omerzel from Slovenia, ranked 50th, was just one point away from a victory over junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) at No. 2. The match was on serve, with Georgia up 8-7, but the Irish were down 0-40 on Parbhu’s serve in the 16th game. Flores and Omerzel are 24-5 overall this season, including 19-5 in dual play. Saturday marked the fourth consecutive match in which Notre Dame failed to register a victory in doubles, with the last triumphs coming on April 22 in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship at South Florida.
Isner continued to be virtually unbeatable in singles. A two-time ITA grand-slam champion and currently ranked #2 in the nation, he completed his 25th consecutive victory by downing 21st-ranked Bass 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1. Isner – who was ranked #1 earlier this spring – moved to 26-2 against nationally-ranked opponents and 41-2 overall, while Bass dropped his fourth consecutive singles contest to match a career-long streak.
Ruiz put the Bulldogs within a point of victory by beating freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3. The ND rookie had a four-match winning streak ended. Clinching the victory was 64th-ranked Omerzel, who beat Keckley 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4.
King and Parbhu both posted opening-set victories, but were down a service-break in the second set when their matches were abandoned. Parbhu, ranked 32nd, was looking to hand Georgia its first defeat at No. 2 singles all season, leading 19th-ranked Flores 7-5, 1-2. The Mexican had his 14-match winning streak stay in tact, though he had won 10 consecutive sets before Parbhu notched the match’s first service break in game 12 to take the opening frame. Flores is 24-3 on the season, while Parbhu stands 30-7 and remained undefeated in his career in singles action in the NCAA tournament.
Purcell – who formerly faced the Irish five times while playing at the University of Miami – suffered an extremely-rare set defeat against King, as the Irishman was up 6-1, 2-4 when the No. 5 match was abandoned. Purcell has won 18 consecutive matches, dating back to Feb. 18, and had lost just one out of 37 sets during that streak prior to Saturday. Bobusic, ranked 60th, was up 6-1, 2-5 against Langenkamp at No. 6 when that affair was abandoned.
The season is not quite over for four of Notre Dame’s players. Bass and Parbhu will commence action in the NCAA Singles Championship on Wednesday, while Keckley and Langenkamp are slated to open play in the NCAA doubles tournament on Thursday.
[No. 1 seed] #1 Georgia 4, #18 Notre Dame 0SinglesNo. 1: #2 John Isner (G) def. #21 Stephen Bass (ND) 6-2, 6-3No. 2: #32 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) led #19 Luis Flores (G) 7-5, 1-2, abandonedNo. 3: Antonio Ruiz (G) def. Brett Helgeson (ND) 6-3, 6-1No. 4: #64 Matic Omerzel (G) def. Ryan Keckley (ND) 6-2, 6-1No. 5: Barry King (ND) led Colin Purcell (G) 6-1, 2-4, abandonedNo. 6: #60 Strahinja Bobusic (G) led Eric Langenkamp (ND) 6-1, 2-5, abandonedOrder of Finish: 1, 3, 4*DoublesNo. 1: #9 Isner/Ruiz (G) def. #28 Keckley/Langenkamp (ND) 8-6No. 2: #50 Flores/Omerzel (G) led King/Parbhu (ND) 8-7, abandonedNo. 3: #20 Bobusic/Purcell (G) def. Bass/Andrew Roth (ND) 8-4Order of Finish: 3, 1** - indicates clinching victory