May 5, 2006
Notre Dame junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) earned invitations to the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Singles Championship, while senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) were selected to participate in the NCAA doubles tournament, it was announced Thursday evening. The veterans are the first Irish doubles team to garner an invitation to the national championship since 2002, while this is the first time since 1995 that two ND singles players will be in that event. The tournaments run from May 24-29 at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center.
Bass, who enters the postseason ranked 21st nationally, was an automatic qualifier. This season the NCAA changed the qualification process to mirror that of the team event, meaning that the top singles player and top doubles team (providing they are nationally-ranked) in each of the 31 conferences earned automatic bids, with the remainder being filled by at-large selections. He led a contingent of four BIG EAST qualifiers in singles, as South Florida’s Dirk Britzen (ranked 27th), Parbhu (32nd), and Louisville’s Slavko Radman (39th) gained at-large bids. Only three conferences – the Southeastern (10 qualifiers), Atlantic Coast (7), and Big 12 (6) – had more qualifiers, while the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Western Athletic Conferences also had four each. The Louisville team of Jakob Gustafsson and Jeremy Clark, ranked 26th, gained the BIG EAST’s automatic bid in doubles, but Keckley and Langenkamp – at 28th – garnered an at-large selection.
Bass stands 27-10 overall in singles this season, including 15-10 against nationally-ranked players. He is 14-9 in dual matches, with all but two of those contests coming at No. 1. He has won three of his last four matches and finished the season with a 13-0 mark at home. Bass is 8-5 outdoors in 2005-06 – but stands 27-10 in his career – and is 14-10 away from home. Notre Dame’s first singles winner in the ITA Midwest Championships since 1993, he has been nearly unbeatable against regional foes, going 18-2. Bass began the season with 13 consecutive victories, advancing all the way to the quarterfinals of the second grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, to match Notre Dame’s best-ever singles result. An outstanding fall propelled him to a career high of eighth in the ITA national singles rankings on Jan. 10, making him just the third Irish player to enter the top 10 since the current rankings were adopted. Among his biggest wins of the season were upsets of then-#16 Rylan Rizza of Virginia and #13 Luke Shields of Boise State in the National Indoors and a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) win over Shields in the final match remaining to give Notre Dame a 4-3 win over the Broncos in the semifinals of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic. He also won the sportsmanship award in that tournament. Bass was ranked 74th in the preseason, but has spent the entire spring in the top 25. He is 73-31 in his career, including 44-25 in dual matches and 19 wins over ranked opponents.
Twenty of his matches this season (54%) – including a late stretch of seven in a row – came against players that earned NCAA berths, and Bass held a 10-10 record against that group, with victories against Matko Maravic of Michigan, Ball State’s Matt Baccarani (twice), Parbhu, Rizza, Shields (twice), Jakub Cech of Fresno State, SMU’s Oredsson, and Radman.
Parbhu is bidding to lead the team in singles victories for the second straight year, currently boasting a 28-7 record, including 8-3 against nationally-ranked players. He is 17-5 in dual matches, playing all but two at No. 2. He had won six in a row before falling in the final of the BIG EAST tournament and was 12-0 at home this season to bring his career record to 25-3. Parbhu is 11-2 outdoors in 2005-06 (30-6 career) and 16-7 on the road. He reached the final of last fall’s ITA Midwest Championships – creating its first-ever all-ND title match – and then won a match to reach the round of 16 in the ITA National Indoor Championships. His biggest wins were against #19 Devin Mullings of Ohio State, #20 Jonathan Stokke from Duke, and #30 Callum Beale of Texas. Parbhu was ranked for the first time in the preseason, at 77th, and has been in the top 35 all spring, peaking at 14th on Jan. 10. He has won over 81% of his career singles matches, standing with a 60-14 record, including 37-8 in dual play and 9-5 against ranked players.
Keckley and Langenkamp hold a 5-4 record as a team this season, but had a penchant for coming through with big victories. The duo was 3-0 against higher-ranked teams, notching a trio of top-30 victories that essentially earned them entrance to the tournament. They beat Michigan’s Brian Hung and Matko Maravic, then ranked 22nd, as well as the 15th-ranked squad of Matt Baccarani and Patrick Thompson from Ball State in the fall and then split a pair of matches with Gustafsson and Clark during the spring. All of those squads made the NCAAs, giving Keckley and Langenkamp a 3-1 mark against fellow qualifiers.
This will be the 10th time in the last 16 years that Notre Dame has had at least one entry in both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments. Overall, Irish competitors have earned 19 invites to the singles event and 12 to the doubles tournament since they adopted their current formats in 1977. All of those but two singles berths have come since 1990. The last time Notre Dame had two singles qualifiers was when Mike Sprouse and Ryan Simme did so in 1995, while the last Irish doubles team to play in the tournament was Javier Taborga and Casey Smith in 2002.
This year’s contingent will try to end a recent drought for Irish players in the NCAA Individual Championships, as Notre Dame competitors are 0-7 in the tournaments since 1998. The last four Irish qualifiers in singles and the last three in doubles all have bowed out in the opening round. The last ND student-athlete to win a match in the singles tournament was Ryan Sachire, who reached the round of 16 in 1998, becoming the fifth Irish competitor to advance to that round. No Notre Dame player has gone farther than that in the event. The last doubles duo to triumph was Brian Patterson and Jakub Pietrowski, who won an opening-round contest in ’98 to be among the final 16. ND’s best-ever finish in doubles was a semifinal appearance by Andy Zurcher and Todd Wilson in 1994.
The 64-player singles championship will begin May 24 with opening-round play and will continue with one round per day. The 32-team doubles tournament starts the 25th and also proceeds with one round each day. A full list of all qualifiers can be found on www.ncaasports.com. The Tennis Channel will provide coverage of the singles and doubles finals.
Notre Dame, ranked 18th with a 17-8 record, first will be in action in the NCAA Team Championship. The Irish will head to College Station, Texas, to take on #63 Brown in the opening round next Friday, May 12 at 2 p.m. (CT) at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.