Jan. 18, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the first time ever, the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team features two players ranked among the top 15 singles players in the country, as junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) is #8 and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) came in 14th in the latest edition of the Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings administered by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), which were released last week. In addition, the Irish boast a top-15 squad in doubles, with senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) – who is also 65th in singles – and junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.), a St. Joseph’s High School graduate, at 12th.
Notre Dame is one of just three schools – along with #1 Virginia and #3 Georgia – that have multiple players ranked among the top 15 in singles. Only four squads – Virginia, #4 Illinois, #6 Mississippi, and the Irish – have three in the top 65. Notre Dame also is one of eight schools to be represented in the national top 15 in both singles and doubles, along with Georgia, Illinois, #8 Duke, #14 Stanford, #28 Boise State, #31 North Carolina, and Air Force. Out of that group, only the Irish, Blue Devils, and Cardinal have a top-15 doubles team that does not include a singles player also in the top 15, meaning that those teams have at least three different players that own a top-15 ranking in singles or doubles. Notre Dame stands unrivaled among all Division I schools as having four different players boasting top-15 rankings in singles and/or doubles.
Bass is the highest-ranked Irish singles player since Ryan Sachire entered his final collegiate season (1999-2000) ranked #2. The current junior is only the third ND student-athlete – along with Sachire and five-time All-American David DiLucia (’92) – to be ranked among the national top 10 in the ITA rankings. Prior to Bass and Parbhu doing so, only four Irish players had ever been listed among the national top 15 in singles, with Will Forsyth (’93) and Javier Taborga (’02) also in that elite group. Bass achieved a career-best ranking for the second time in a row, after being listed 74th in the preseason. Parbhu was not ranked at all during his rookie campaign, but then came into 2005-06 at 77th.
Langenkamp and Keckley comprise the highest-ranked Notre Dame doubles team since Taborga and Casey Smith concluded their careers in 2001-02 ranked eighth. The current players continue a long tradition of highly-ranked Irish doubles teams, as they are the eighth different pair under head coach Bob Bayliss to be ranked 12th in the nation or higher. In fact, a dozen Bayliss-coached duos at Notre Dame have been ranked 17th or higher.
Langenkamp has joined an elite group of just 12 Irish players who have been ranked among the national top 65 in both singles and doubles. He earned his second career ranking in doubles, after being 60th for a brief time last spring. He also achieved a career-high listing in singles.
Keckley takes his place in a group of just four Irish doubles standouts – along with Brian Patterson (’99), Allan Lopez (’94), and Todd Wilson (’94) – who have been ranked among the top 12 in partnered play without achieving a national ranking in singles during their respective careers. He has now been nationally-ranked with three different partners, matching the Irish record held by Andy Zurcher (’94) and Luis Haddock (’04). Keckley is one of just five ND players – along with Zurcher, DiLucia, Taborga, and Chuck Coleman (’93) – to earn top-15 rankings with two different partners. In the spring of 2003-04, he and Haddock peaked at 14th, which had been the South Bend native’s career-best ranking.
Also announced recently by the ITA were the regional rankings for both singles and doubles. Notre Dame joined Ohio State as the only schools with four or more singles players listed among the top 25 in the ITA’s Midwest Region. Bass led the way at #2, while Parbhu was fifth, freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) was 13th, and Langenkamp was 22nd. Junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) would have been ranked, but was listed as having insufficient data since he did not play collegiately during the fall. Bass is the highest-ranked Irish player in the regional singles rankings since Sachire finished his career in 1999-2000 at #1, which concluded a decade-long span in which ND boasted the region’s top singles player in every season but one. In an almost-unbelievable turn, Keckley and Langenkamp were listed just 13th in the regional doubles rankings determined by a committee of head coaches, despite having wins over the teams ranked #2 and #5 in the region and coming in 12th in the national rankings (determined by the ITA’s computer formula).
Bass turned in one of the best falls in Irish history, going 13-1 with his lone defeat coming in a 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) decision against Georgia’s John Isner, now ranked #2 after being #4 at the time, in the quarterfinals of the season’s second grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. That matched the top finish ever for a Notre Dame player in that event. Eight of Bass’ victories came against nationally-ranked players, including wins against #16 Rylan Rizza of Virginia and #13 Luke Shields from Boise State in the National Indoors. He won 25 of his first 26 sets – with the lone defeat a 17-15 tiebreaker loss. Bass went unbeaten in four matches in the Tom Fallon Invitational, then prevailed at No. 1 in the 6-1 Irish triumph over USC in an exhibition match before beating Parbhu in the first-ever all-Irish final to become the first Notre Dame player since 1993 to win the singles title in the ITA Midwest Championships, which earned him a spot in the National Indoors.
Langenkamp and Keckley broke through in the season’s first event, the Tom Fallon Invitational, to go unbeaten in three matches, including a pair of victories against top-25 foes. They won 9-7 over #22 Brian Hung and Matko Maravic of Michigan and then prevailed 8-4 against the Ball State team of Matt Baccarani and Patrick Thompson, ranked 15th at the time before rising to #4 in the latest rankings. The Irish duo lost in its two other fall matches.
Parbhu had a breakout fall campaign, going 11-2 with his lone defeats coming against Bass in the title match of the Midwest Championships and vs. the #1-ranked player in NAIA, Mislav Hizak of Embry-Riddle, in the round of 16 of the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. The Irish sophomore began the fall with 10 consecutive victories before losing to his teammate to end a 17-match winning streak that dated back to March 17, 2005. Parbhu went 5-1 against ranked players, including a victory over #19 Devin Mullings of Ohio State in the regionals and an upset of Air Force’s Shannon Buck, who was 28th at the time but is now listed 15th, in the opening round of the National Indoor Championships.
Langenkamp, who prevailed in singles last August to be the first Notre Dame player to win a title in the ITA National Summer Championships, earned his first career singles ranking in the preseason (89th) and went 4-5 in the opening semester. He was the first Irish player since 2001-02 to compete in the main draw of the season’s first grand slam, the Polo Ralph Lauren ITA All-American Championships. In consolation action, he upset #15 Tom Eklund of South Carolina for his first career win over a ranked player in collegiate action.
Helgeson – who last summer joined DiLucia as the only Notre Dame recruits ever to reach the quarterfinals of the USTA Super National Hardcourt Championships – was impressive in his first semester of college tennis. He was ranked 108th in the preseason (fourth among freshmen) and posted a 7-1 record in singles, with his lone defeat coming to #19 Devin Mullings of Ohio State in the round of 16 of the ITA Midwest Championships. Helgeson was one of only two rookies – along with Ohio State’s Chris Koniecko – to reach the final 16 in that tournament, and the Buckeye is the only freshman (at 10th) to be listed higher than Helgeson in the regional rankings. The Notre Dame rookie clinched Notre Dame’s 6-1 victory over rival USC in exhibition action and also registered a pair of wins against players that are now nationally-ranked (#62 Ryan Heller of Michigan and #100 Maor Zirkin from Drake).
The Irish, ranked 26th, will begin the dual-match portion of their 2005-06 season on Saturday when they travel to regional rival #51 Northwestern for a 6 p.m. (CST) match in the Combe Tennis Center. That will lift the lid on a brutal early-season slate, which will see Notre Dame face a trio of top-10 squads in the first three weeks of the season. The Irish will take on #1 Virginia on Jan. 27 in Richmond and then head to #8 Duke on Feb. 5 and to #4 Illinois on Feb. 7. Notre Dame’s home opener comes on Sunday, Jan. 29 against #65 William & Mary at 10 a.m. (EST) in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.