April 20, 2008
The Notre Dame men’s tennis team earned its second consecutive Big East title with a 4-3 win over host South Florida Sunday morning in Tampa. The Irish trailed 3-2 before Sheeva Parbhu and Daniel Stahl earned wins in the final two matches to clinch the title for Notre Dame. The win clinches Notre Dame’s seventeenth NCAA tournament appearance in 18 years. The Irish entered the tournament dropping six of eight matches, but the team rallied to win three straight matches this weekend to claim the conference crown.
Though the Irish captured the doubles point, the championship match was in the hands of the home team as South Florida won three of the first four singles matches completed. Notre Dame had their back against the wall, but had two of their most clutch players left on the court. Captain Sheeva Parbhu and Daniel Stahl had the second and third most wins on the team entering the day, and had won eight straight matches between them entering Sunday’s play. Luckily for the Irish, the pair kept that streak alive and gave Notre Dame the title.
Parbhu fought off Mahmoud Hamed 6-2, 6-4 to tie the match at three with a tough second set win. While the Irish captain was able to gain a decisive advantage in the first set, he battled in the second and won it by a single break to earn his 27th win of the season. The win also ran Parbhu’s dual mark to 17-6. He was one of only two players to win all three singles matches for Notre Dame this weekend.
As play progressed it became apparent that the match would rest on the shoulders of the freshman Stahl who was riding a six-match winning streak entering play Sunday. He was able to win the first set in a tiebreaker over Diego Toledo and then got the break he needed to win the second set and claim the match 7-6 (4), 6-4. It was a fitting end for a Notre Dame team that saw freshmen earn 47% of all dual match wins this season. Stahl earned his first win of the weekend and improved his record to a stellar 25-8 and 14-5 in dual play.
After Notre Dame won the doubles point for the third time in as many days, the Bulls responded by winning the first match off the court at No. 4. Thomas Estrada downed Stephen Havens 7-5, 6-1 to knot the match. The loss was the Notre Dame freshman’s second in a row and dropped his mark to 19-20 on the season.
Junior Brett Helgeson got the Irish back on track with a dominant 6-0, 6-1 win over Lucas Jovita at No. 1. The match was the only one in the entire Big East tournament that featured two ranked singles players. 46th -ranked Helgeson controlled play the entire way to earn the victory over the 87th ranked freshman from South Florida. Helgeson has the most victories on the team with 29, and, along with Parbhu, won all three of his matches at the Big East tournament. He is now 14-9 in dual play this season.
The Notre Dame lead would be short-lived however, as Michael Nusslein downed David Anderson 6-2, 6-2 at No. 5 to tie the match once again. The loss concluded a disappointing Big East tournament for the Irish rookie who was unable to record a singles win this weekend. He is now 17-14 on the year and has dropped his last three decisions. Jamal Adderley put the Bulls on the verge of their first ever Big East championship with a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 win over Andrew Roth at No. 3. A single break decided both sets, as Roth was the tough luck loser, and saw his record fall to 10-18 this season. He was picked up by his teammates Parbhu and Stahl, who were able to win the final two contests.
The Irish controlled doubles play from the start and earned two easy wins at the Nos. 1 and 3 positions to earn what would turn out to be a crucial doubles point. Parbhu and Helgeson teamed up to down Daniel Daudt and Estrada 8-3. The win was the second of the weekend for Notre Dame’s top pair, who are now 15-12 on the year.
The freshman duo of Havens and Tyler Davis sealed the point with an 8-5 triumph over Nusslein and Adderley at No. 3. The duo, which has Notre Dame’s best doubles mark at 14-6 won a match in each round of the tournament and improved their dual mark to 9-3.
Roth and Santiago Montoya were ahead of Jovita and Hamed 7-4 when the point was decided at No. 2.
Notre Dame improved to 12-1 this season when they win the doubles point. They are just 3-8 when they drop it.
The Irish will return to the court Saturday afternoon when they conclude regular season play with a road match at Florida State. The Irish hold a 5-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Seminoles and they have won the last four matches in the series including a 5-2 win at home last season. First serve is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. in Tallahassee. Notre Dame will open NCAA tournament play the weekend of May 9-11 at one of the yet to be determined campus sites.