March 10, 2005
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Sophomore Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) beat a fellow Irishman in three sets in the final match on court to send the 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (12-3) to a 4-3 victory over #68 William & Mary (4-10) in the opening round of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic Thursday afternoon at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center. The Irish, the second overall seed in the event and the highest remaining in the main draw, will take on either #39 North Carolina State or #55 Boise State in Friday’s quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. (CST).
Notre Dame won both of the doubles matches that were completed and then prevailed in the first two singles contests off the court to go up 3-0, but the Tribe – now 0-4 this season in 4-3 contests – got three straight-set victories to put the fate of the match in the hands of two natives of and former national #1 junior players in Ireland.
King, who was the top-ranked 18-and-under player in his country before enrolling at Notre Dame in the fall of 2003 after taking over that distinction from his opponent, dropped the first set, but then lost just two more games en route to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory against Colin O’Brien at No. 3. King improved to 19-6 this season, including 12-3 in dual-match action. He has won eight of his last nine matches and now stands 9-2 in contests away from home (22-9 in his career). He snapped a string of nine straight losses when losing the opening set, rallying from a one-set deficit for the first time this season and fourth time as a collegian. King was victorious as the final match on court in his first time in the situation while at Notre Dame. He also notched his third clinching victory of the season, the second-highest total on the team.
Notre Dame, which is now unbeaten in two outdoor contests this season, won the doubles point with victories at the top two spots. Junior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and freshman Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) were first off the court, with an 8-2 win at No. 2 against Alex Cojanu and Sean Kelleher. The Irish duo moved to 13-4 this season, including 10-3 in dual matches. They are 5-1 in outdoor contests and 7-2 on the road.
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.) clinched the match’s first point by beating O’Brien and Alex Fish 8-4 at No. 1. The Notre Dame team has now won six of its last seven matches and stands 10-5 overall at No. 1 this spring. They have four clinching victories this season and seven in their careers together. Only one team – 2002 graduates Javier Taborga and Aaron Talarico (13) – has registered more doubles-point-clinching wins together since the statistic debuted in 1999. The win also was the 21st clinching win in doubles for D’Amico in his career, moving him into first place on that list, past Talarico (20).
Notre Dame appeared on its way to a sweep, as King and fellow sophomore Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) were leading 6-3 over Jeff Kader and Stephen Ward at No. 3 before the match was abandoned.
Parbhu put Notre Dame up 2-0 with a quick 6-1, 6-4 victory over Cojanu at No. 4, marking the Irish rookie’s sixth consecutive victory and 12th in 13 matches this spring. Parbhu is 24-5 overall as a collegian, including 22-1 when taking the opening set. It was his second win over Cojanu this season.
Bass gave the Irish a 3-0 advantage by beating Kelleher 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2. He has now won six of his last seven matches and is 19-9 on the season. He has now won 24 consecutive matches (16-0 this season) when taking the opening set and has won 11 outdoor matches in a row (7-0 this season) to improve to 15-1 in his collegiate career outside. It had taken a match tiebreaker for Bass to beat Kelleher last fall in the Tom Fallon Invitational.
Kader, ranked 59th in the nation, got William & Mary on the board by beating D’Amico 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1. Next, Matt Rubenstein notched a 7-5, 6-4 win against junior Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) at No. 6. Ward then tied the score 3-3 by topping sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School) 6-4, 7-6 at No. 5.
The Irish are the highest remaining seed in the tournament after top-seeded and 15th-ranked Harvard fell to #59 Fresno State in the first round on Thursday.
Notre Dame, appearing in the Blue-Gray Classic – one of the nation’s most prestigious in-season dual-match tournaments – for the 15th consecutive year, now holds a 20-11 overall mark in the event. The Irish, five-time finalists and twice champions (1993, 2001), have been in the Blue-Gray quarterfinals on 14 occasions.
#18 Notre Dame 4, #68 William & Mary 3
No. 1: #59 Jeff Kader (W&M) def. Brent D’Amico (ND) 6-2, 6-2
No. 2: Stephen Bass (ND) def. Sean Kelleher (W&M) 6-2, 6-2
No. 3: Barry King (ND) def. Colin O’Brien (W&M) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1
No. 4: Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Alex Cojanu (W&M) 6-1, 6-4
No. 5: Stephen Ward (W&M) def. Irackli Akhvlediani (ND) 6-4, 7-6
No. 6: Matt Rubenstein (W&M) def. Patrick Buchanan (ND) 7-5, 6-4
Order of Finish: 4, 2, 1, 6, 5, 3*
No. 1: D’Amico/Ryan Keckley (ND) def. Alex Fish/O’Brien (W&M) 8-4
No. 2: Eric Langenkamp/Parbhu (ND) def. Cojanu/Kelleher (W&M) 8-2
No. 3: S. Bass/King (ND) led Kader/Ward (W&M) 6-3, abandoned
Order of Finish: 2, 1*