Oct. 24, 2005
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Notre Dame junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) both won again on Monday morning in the University of Michigan’s Varsity Tennis Center to earn spots in the semifinals of the singles main draw of the Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Championships, the annual indoor tournament of the top players in the region. Bass won in straight sets while Parbhu saved four match points en route to a three-set win in the quarterfinals. Both will play in semifinal action on Tuesday at 9 a.m. (EDT), with the title match to follow in the afternoon.
“It was a good day for Notre Dame tennis,” said Irish assistant coach Todd Doebler, who stayed with Bass and Parbhu after the rest of the squad returned to campus to resume classes on Monday. “This will be the third consecutive year that we are competing on the final day of this tournament, and that is a testament to the hard work our guys have put in.”
Parbhu, ranked 77th and the No. 5 seed, played in a marathon match with Michigan’s top player, third-seeded and 42nd-ranked Matko Maravic from Croatia, that lasted nearly three hours. The first two sets of the match both went to tiebreakers, and the match was already 2:15 old when the players began the final set. Maravic had four match points in the second-set tiebreaker, but Parbhu rallied back and then prevailed in the final set for a 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (11-9), 6-2 triumph.
“This was just a great college tennis match between two players who battled point after point,” said Doebler. “Sheeva had opportunities in the first set, but just didn’t capitalize on them. Maravic did a great job, especially in the tiebreaker, where he got a quick start and carried that through. The second set was very close, and Sheeva was down in the tiebreaker, which featured a lot of great points. But he kept saving match points and came away with the victory. He used that momentum to carry him in the third set. This was a big win for Sheeva, and surviving those match points will do a lot for his confidence.”
Parbhu – who was the team MVP last year with a 32-7 record, including 20-3 in dual action at Nos. 3 and 4 – improved to 9-0 this season and has now won 16 consecutive matches, dating back to a loss to Illinois’ Monte Tucker on March 17. Parbhu had won 22 straight sets before dropping the first tiebreaker against Maravic. The Irish sophomore now stands 41-7 (.854) for his career, including 21-2 (.913) against players from the Midwest Region. He is 6-2 in three-set affairs and 14-2 in close matches. Parbhu holds a 4-2 mark against nationally-ranked players, and his upset of Maravic was the second-highest-ranked win of his career, behind a triumph over then-#31 Derrick Spice of Wake Forest in last fall’s Crimson Tide Fall Championships.
Despite playing on his home court, Maravic lost to a Notre Dame player for the third time in as many matches over the last seven months. He fell to Bass in dual action at No. 1 last spring and again to him in last month’s Tom Fallon Invitational.
Next up for Parbhu will be his stiffest challenge yet, as he takes on the tournament’s top seed, 19th-ranked Devin Mullings of Ohio State, a native of the Bahamas who has not yet dropped a set in the tournament. The two played in the round of 16 of last year’s tournament, when the Buckeye prevailed 6-2, 6-2.
Bass, ranked 74th and the No. 4 seed, also won a tight match, though he prevailed in straight sets, beating sixth-seeded and 79th-ranked Matt Baccarani from Ball State 6-4, 7-5. It was the third time in the last seven months that Bass had registered a close straight-set victory against the Canadian.
“It was a tough match between two guys who are familiar with each others’ games,” said Doebler. “Stephen played solidly and served a little better at clutch times, which proved to be the difference. He got up a break early in both sets. Baccarani fought back to even it in the second, but Stephen broke at 5-5 and served out the match. It was good to see him get through a match with a tough opponent without having to go to three sets.”
It was the fourth consecutive close match in which Bass prevailed. He is now 9-0 on the season, including 5-0 vs. nationally-ranked players. He is 55-21 (.726) in his career, including 30-10 (.750) against Midwest Region opponents.
Next up for Bass is Nick Rinks from Michigan State, the 21st seed in the tournament who played No. 3 for the Spartans last spring. He has been on a hot streak in this event, as he upset both the No. 8 (Jose Orozco of Western Michigan) and No. 9 (Ohio State’s Chris Klingemann) seeds.
Notre Dame was the only school to have two players in the quarterfinals and now remains the only squad with a pair among the final four. It is the fifth time that the Irish have had two players in the semifinals of the tournament, though the first since 1996, when Ryan Sachire was the runner-up and Jakub Pietrowski lost in the semis. Sachire is the last Notre Dame player to reach the title match of the Midwest Championships, and there has never been an all-Irish championship before. The last Notre Dame singles champion was Andy Zurcher in 1993.
It is the third straight year that the Irish will be playing on the final day. In 2003, Luis Haddock and current junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./Penn H.S.) were the doubles runners-up, and Bass reached the semis a year ago, as well. Bass is the fifth Irish player to reach the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships multiple times, joining Sachire (1996, ’98, ’99), Zurcher (1990, ’91, ’93), Will Forsyth (1991, ’92), and David DiLucia (1989, ’90).
This is the fifth time in the last six years that one school has had at least half of the semifinalists in the ITA Midwest Championships. Minnesota did it with the same pair (Harsh Mankad and Thomas Haug) in 2000 and ’01 and then Illinois had a trio in the final four in both 2002 (Phil Stolt, Brian Wilson, Mike Calkins) and ’03 (Calkins, Pramod Dabir, Chris Martin). The only time in that span that players from the same squad met in the final was ’02, when Stolt beat Wilson in a walkover.
The singles finalists in the ITA Midwest Championships earn automatic entry into the main draw of the season’s second grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, which are set for Nov. 3-6 at The Ohio State University in Columbus.
Wilson/ITA Midwest Championships (October 24)Singles Main Draw - Quarterfinals #77 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def.  #42 Matko Maravic (Michigan) 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (11-9), 6-2 #74 Stephen Bass (ND) def.  #79 Matt Baccarani (Ball State) 6-4, 7-5
Note: Numbers in brackets are tournament seedings. Numbers preceding names are ITA national rankings.