Feb. 27, 2005
RICHMOND, Va. – The 24th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (10-3) nearly pulled off the biggest regular-season upset in program history, but Cavalier junior Rylan Rizza won a third set at No. 2 against Irish sophomore Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) in the final match on court to give #2 Virginia (10-1) a 4-3 victory Sunday afternoon in the Country Club of Virginia. The Irish won the doubles point and got straight-set victories at Nos. 4 and 5, but could not manage a final point.
Rizza, ranked 38th in the nation in singles, took the opening set, but then dropped a tiebreaker to Bass in the second, setting up a third set with the team score knotted at 3-3. The Cavalier junior wasted little time, breaking serve in the second game of the frame en route to taking a 3-0 advantage, and that one break would hold up. Rizza had a chance to get a second break at 4-1, but Bass fought off the Cavalier and held serve. The Irish sophomore’s best chance to break back came in the ensuing game, when he had a break point to pull to within 4-3. But Rizza quickly dismissed that, winning three straight points to hold serve and go up 5-2. He then won two of the first three points on Bass’ serve, but again Notre Dame would come back, making the score 5-3 and forcing Rizza to serve out the match. That he did, winning the first three points of the set’s ninth game and then converting on his second team match point for a 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 victory. Rizza improved to 21-6 this season and 7-1 in dual-match action. It was the first time in his career that Bass did not prevail in a three-set match with the team outcome hanging in the balance, having previously been unbeaten in seven of those situations. He also had won four consecutive matches overall prior to Sunday.
Virginia would have been the highest-ranked team ever to fall victim to the Irish in regular-season play. That distinction is still shared by the 1992 LSU and ’94 Duke teams, who were both ranked #4 when falling to the Irish. The Tigers lost 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championship, while the Blue Devils fell 4-3 in Durham. Notre Dame’s all-time highest-ranked victory was an upset of #1 USC in the semifinals of the 1992 NCAA Championship.
The match got underway Sunday morning with the bottom two singles matches, which saw both teams win one. Sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School) highlighted the play by notching his first-ever win against a nationally-ranked player, upsetting #36 Darrin Cohen 7-5, 7-6 at No. 5. The Cavalier junior had been 13-3 on the season and undefeated in seven contests this spring. The Austrian – playing a ranked player for just the second time as a collegian – improved to 20-9 this season.
The other early match saw 86th-ranked Marko Miklo of Slovakia top Irish junior Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) 7-5, 6-4 at No. 6. Miklo was playing at the bottom position for the first time this spring after being at Nos. 3 and 4 for most of the dual-match season before sliding down to No. 5 on Friday against Virginia Tech. Buchanan had been 24-4 this season.
After having dropped the match’s initial point in four of their last six contests, the Irish won the doubles point against UVA. The point came down to the No. 1 match, where Irish senior co-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) and sophomore Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) triumphed 9-7 over Rylan Rizza and Nick Meythaler. The Irish team is now 8-5 this spring in dual action at No. 1.
The Cavs prevailed in the quickest match, as Cohen and Doug Stewart won 8-3 at No. 3 over Notre Dame sophomores Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College).
The No. 2 match saw a battle of nationally-ranked teams, as Notre Dame’s 60th-ranked duo of junior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and freshman Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) knocked off the 23rd-ranked team of Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey by an 8-5 score. Langenkamp and Parbhu earned their first victory as a nationally-ranked team and improved to 11-4 this season, including 8-3 in dual-match action at No. 2. The Cavs had been 9-3 together in 2004-05.
First off the court in the final wave of singles was Stewart, who is ranked #7 in the nation. He beat D’Amico 6-2, 6-4 at No. 1 to even the score at 2-2. The Virginia junior is 13-3 this season, including 9-1 in dual-match action at No. 1.
The Cavaliers moved within a point of victory when 13th-ranked Somdev Devvarman of India finished a 6-3, 6-4 win over 100th-ranked King at No. 3. The Indian moved to 24-5 this season, including 7-1 in dual action at No. 3.
Parbhu then put the match in the hands of Bass and Rizza by beating Treat Huey 7-5, 7-5 at No. 4. The Notre Dame freshman improved to 22-5 this season, including 10-1 in dual play at No. 4. The UVA rookie had been ranked earlier this spring, and he entered the match with a 15-9 record, including 8-2 in dual play.
The match was played in Richmond, giving Notre Dame head coach Bob Bayliss a chance to return to his roots. The 18th-year Irish mentor graduated from the University of Richmond in 1966 after playing both tennis and basketball for the Spiders.
It was just the second-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Virginia in men’s tennis. In the initial clash, Notre Dame prevailed 4-2 in the opening round of the 2000 Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Ala.
The Irish will next get their first outdoor action of the season, heading to La Jolla, Calif., next weekend to take part in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships, a non-collegiate event running from March 3-6. Notre Dame will conclude the weekend with a dual match against Saint Joseph’s on Sunday, March 6 at Noon (PST).
#2 Virginia 4, #24 Notre Dame 3
No. 1: #7 Doug Stewart (V) def. Brent D’Amico (ND) 6-2, 6-4
No. 2: #38 Rylan Rizza (V) def. Stephen Bass (ND) 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3
No. 3: #13 Somdev Devvarman (V) def. #100 Barry King (ND) 6-3, 6-4
No. 4: Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Treat Huey (V) 7-5, 7-5
No. 5: Irackli Akhvlediani (ND) def. #36 Darrin Cohen (V) 7-5, 7-6
No. 6: #86 Marko Miklo (V) def. Patrick Buchanan (ND) 7-5, 6-4
Order of Finish: 6, 5, 1, 3, 4, 2*
No. 1: D’Amico/Keckley (ND) def. Meythaler/Rizza (V) 9-7
No. 2: #60 Eric Langenkamp/Parbhu (ND) def. #23 Devvarman/Huey (V) 8-5
No. 3: Cohen/Stewart (V) def. S. Bass/King (ND) 9-7
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1*