March 13, 2005
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (13-4) continued its season of nailbiters, getting a victory from sophomore Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) in the final match on court to clinch a 4-3 triumph over #27 Rice (9-4) Saturday afternoon in consolation action in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic at the Lagoon Park Tennis Complex. It was the fifth time in six matches that Notre Dame was involved in a contest that was tied 3-3 with one match remaining (3-2 record), as well as the seventh 4-3 affair for the Irish in the last six weeks.
Rice won a tightly-contested doubles point, but it looked as though Notre Dame would grab straight-set victories at each of the bottom five positions, whereby avoiding the drama of recent matches. But the Owls rallied to win tight second sets at Nos. 3 and 6, forcing decisive sets in both of those contests, with the Irish holding a 3-2 advantage.
At the bottom position, junior Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) was up a set and a service break (3-2) in the second, but then lost his momentum after a lengthy delay. As a result, Rodrigo Gabriel of Guatemala was able to stage a comeback, eventually prevailing 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to tie the match score at 3-3.
King served for his match up a set and 5-4 in the second, but Ben Harknett of England broke serve and eventually forced and won a second-set tiebreaker. The Irishman made short work of the final set, though, dropping just a single game en route to a 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 triumph. King has become one of Notre Dame’s top clutch players this week, winning three-setters in all three Blue-Gray matches to improve to 21-6 on the season and 14-3 in dual-match action. He has won 10 of his last 11 matches.
After the quickest singles match, Rice held a 2-0 advantage. Robert Searle of England, ranked 42nd, won that affair 6-1, 6-2 over Irish senior co-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) at No. 1.
The Irish comeback began with freshman Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) defeating German Ralph Knupfer 6-1, 6-3 at No. 4. He improved to 25-6 on the season and 13-2 in dual action.
Sophomore Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) evened the score at 2-2 by beating another German, Tony Haerle, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2. He has won eight of his last nine and is 21-9 on the season, including 11-6 in dual action. Bass has now won 26 straight (18-0 this season) when winning the first set and 13 in a row (9-0 this season) when playing outdoors.
Sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School) put the Irish within a point of victory by beating Jason Mok of Australia 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5. He is now 22-10 on the season.
Notre Dame served for two of the three doubles matches, but could not come away with a single victory. Haerle and Filip Zivonjinovic of Serbia jumped out to a 7-1 advantage over Parbhu and junior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) at No. 2, but the Irish duo rallied, winning six consecutive games to knot the score at 7-7. Then the Rice team held serve and broke for a 9-7 victory.
At No. 1, D’Amico and sophomore Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) served for the match at 7-6, but then were broken by Searle and Harknett, who eventually prevailed in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (9-7), to clinch the point for the Owls. King and Bass, who served for the No. 3 match at 7-6, saw their match abandoned in the midst of a tiebreaker against Gabriel and Mok.
The Irish, who concluded their spring-break trip on Saturday, will return home and next play host to #3 Illinois on Thursday, March 17 at 4 p.m. (EST).
#18 Notre Dame 4, #27 Rice 3
No. 1: #42 Robert Searle (Rice) def. Brent D’Amico (ND) 6-1, 6-2
No. 2: Stephen Bass (ND) def. Tony Haerle (Rice) 6-2, 6-4
No. 3: Barry King (ND) def. Ben Harknett (Rice) 6-3, 6-7, 6-1
No. 4: Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Ralph Knupfer (Rice) 6-1, 6-3
No. 5: Irackli Akhvlediani (ND) def. Jason Mok (Rice) 6-3, 6-3
No. 6: Rodrigo Gabriel (Rice) def. Patrick Buchanan (ND) 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
Order of Finish: 1, 4, 2, 5, 6, 3*
No. 1: Searle/Harknett (Rice) def. D’Amico/Ryan Keckley (ND) 9-8 (9-7)
No. 2: Haerle/Filip Zivojinovic (Rice) def. Eric Langenkamp/Parbhu (ND) 9-7
No. 3: Gabriel/Mok (Rice) vs. King/Bass (ND) 8-8, abandoned
Order of Finish: 2, 1*