March 16, 2006
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The second-seeded and 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (11-4) opened play in the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic with a quick 4-0 win against #72 William & Mary (8-10) Thursday afternoon at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center. The Irish improved to 15-1 in first-round contests in the Blue-Gray and have now won nine in a row.
Persistent rain showers in the Montgomery area forced significant delays to the tournament schedule on Thursday, and the match began more than three hours after it had been scheduled to. Because of the delays, all contests featured singles matches first, with teams playing doubles only upon splitting those. As is customary in the event, the matches were halted once one side reached four points. Because of these factors, Notre Dame was able to gain a victory in less than 90 minutes, which was welcome to the Irish, who played a long 4-3 match on Tuesday and will be in action again on Friday, Saturday, and possibly Sunday.
First off the court for Notre Dame was junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.), who beat Matthew Rubenstein 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4. Keckley has won a career-high nine consecutive matches and leads the team with a 14-1 record in dual action (6-0 at No. 4). He has lost just seven total games in two victories this week and is now 16-2 overall this season.
Next done was 106th-ranked junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College), who won 6-2, 6-1 against freshman Alexander Zuck at No. 5. King – who won in three sets in the final match remaining to give the Irish a 4-3 win over the Tribe in the opening round of the 2005 Blue-Gray – has won three straight and is now 9-5 on the season.
Sophomore Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/Tenney School) got an opportunity to play singles for the second time this spring, and he responded with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against freshman Dominic Pagon from Jamaica. Roth is 8-2 on the season, including 2-0 in dual play.
Clinching the victory for the second time this spring was freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.), who won 6-2, 6-4 against another rookie, Billy Mulligan, at No. 3. It was the second time those players hooked up this season, with the Irish competitor winning 7-5, 6-2 on Jan. 29 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Helgeson ended a two-match losing streak to improve to 17-6 on the season, including 10-5 in dual play (5-3 at No. 3).
Helgeson finished just ahead of 13th-ranked Notre Dame junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School), who was two points from victory, serving at 30-0 while already holding a 6-2, 5-4 advantage in the match against Irishman Colin O’Brien at No. 1. Notre Dame also appeared to be on its way to a victory in the other singles match, as 33rd-ranked sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) was up 7-5, 3-1 on Stephen Ward at No. 2.
The Irish – who beat the Tribe 7-0 at home on Jan. 29 – have now won six in a row against William & Mary and lead the all-time series with the Tribe by a 6-1 count.
Notre Dame is now riding its longest winning streak since a 10-match stretch from Feb. 11-March 18, 2001, which culminated in the Irish winning their second championship in the Blue-Gray Classic. ND is now seeking to become just the second school ever to win the event three times, as USC did so in 1987, ’88, and ’91.
This is the 16th consecutive year in which the Irish are taking part in the Blue-Gray, one of the most-prestigious in-season dual-match tournaments in the country. Notre Dame now holds a 32-19 (.627) overall mark in the event, including 15-1 in the opening round. The Irish have reached the semifinals on six occasions: 1991, ’93 (champion), ’97 (runner-up), ’98 (runner-up), 2001 (champion), and ’02 (runner-up).
The Irish will play on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (CST) in the quarterfinals of the Blue-Gray against either #33 South Alabama (12-3) or #56 Fresno State (8-3), two teams scheduled to play an opening-round match on Thursday evening. The Jaguars are the highest-ranked team not to receive one of the draw’s four seeds, and they beat Notre Dame 4-2 in the title match of the 1997 Blue-Gray Classic in the only all-time meeting between the squads. The Irish lead 2-1 in the series with the Bulldogs, having taken both meetings in the Blue-Gray. Notre Dame beat Fresno State 4-2 in the 2001 title match and 4-0 in the ’04 opening round. For complete tournament results and other information about the event, see bluegraytennis.com.
#20 Notre Dame 4, #72 William and Mary 0SinglesNo. 1: #13 Stephen Bass (ND) led Colin O'Brien (W&M) 6-2, 5-4, abandonedNo. 2: #33 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) led Stephen Ward (W&M) 7-5, 3-1, abandonedNo. 3: * #89 Brett Helgeson (ND) def. Billy Mulligan (W&M) 6-2, 6-4No. 4: Ryan Keckley (ND) def. Matthew Rubenstein (W&M) 6-1, 6-2No. 5: #106 Barry King (ND) def. Alexander Zuck (W&M) 6-2, 6-1No. 6: Andrew Roth (ND) def. Dominic Pagon (W&M) 6-2, 6-2Order of Finish: 4, 5, 6, 3*Doubles (not played)No. 1: Keckley/Parbhu (ND) vs. Pagon/Ward (W&M)No. 2: Eric Langenkamp/Roth (ND) vs. #33 Alex Cojanu/Mulligan (W&M)No. 3: King/Santiago Montoya (ND) vs. O'Brien/Kavi Sud (W&M)* - indicates clinching victory