Oct. 25, 2005
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Notre Dame junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) prevailed against his teammate, sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.), Tuesday afternoon in the first-ever all-Irish singles final of the Wilson/ Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Championships. Both players earned semifinal victories in morning action – with Parbhu upsetting the tournament’s top seed – to jointly become the first Notre Dame players to reach the singles final of the event since 1996. Bass is the first Irish victor since 1993 in the annual indoor tournament of the top players in the ITA’s Midwest Region.
“Yesterday was a great day for Notre Dame tennis, but this was an even better day,” said Irish assistant coach Todd Doebler, who handled the on-court coaching for both Bass and Parbhu over the last two days of the event. “Having both of these guys in the championship is a real testament to the work and commitment level that they have both been showing.”
“I am unbelievably proud of both of them and extremely happy,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss. “I think this bodes very well for our coming dual-match season.”
Bass came away with a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the championship match, the first official meeting between the two players in collegiate competition. The Irish junior joined an elite club of just four Notre Dame players who have won that singles title. The others are David DiLucia (1990), Will Forsyth (1992), and Andy Zurcher (1993). No ND competitor had been to the final of the event since Ryan Sachire lost in it in 1996.
“Stephen played at a high level in the final, and I think Sheeva’s legs were a little tired after battling in his last two matches,” said Doebler.
With their semifinal victories, both Bass and Parbhu guaranteed themselves berths in the main draw of the second grand slam of the season, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, set for Nov. 3-6 at The Ohio State University’s Racquet Club of Columbus. It will be the fourth time – but first since 1995 (Mike Sprouse and Ryan Simme) – that two Irish players are in the main draw of that tournament. After ND senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) took part in the main draw of the first grand slam, the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships, this will be the first time in Irish program history that three different Notre Dame players have been in the singles main draw of at least one of the fall grand slams. None of those players had ever participated in a grand slam prior to this fall.
“It is very exciting to head home knowing that both of them qualified for the National Indoors,” said Doebler. “They are both excited to represent Notre Dame in that tournament.”
Bass now stands a perfect 11-0 on the season, with six of his victories coming against nationally-ranked players. He is 57-21 (.732) in his career, including 32-10 (.762) against Midwest Region opponents.
With the defeat, Parbhu fell to 10-1 on the fall and had a 17-match winning streak snapped, taking his first defeat since March 17. He is 42-8 (.840) in his career.
Parbhu survived a battle to earn his spot in the championship, upsetting the tournament’s top seed, #19 Devin Mullings from Ohio State, 6-1, 1-6, 7-5. The Irish sophomore was down a service break during much of the final set. The native of the Bahamas served for the match at 5-4, but Parbhu broke serve, then held and broke again to win the match.
“This was a really high-level match between two talented players,” said Doebler. “It came down to who was willing to step up into the court and go for it a little more. Toward the end, Sheeva was ready to do that and he really dictated the points, which was a key for him. He came out playing unbelievably and was very aggressive, taking the ball early. That almost seemed to shock Mullings, who was a little bit on his heels. The second set was similar in the reverse, as Sheeva was a little less aggressive and Mullings stepped up his game and took it to Sheeva. When it came down to it at the end, Sheeva played a couple of big games and went for his shots, and that was the difference.”
The victory gave Parbhu a measure of revenge, as Mullings had prevailed 6-2, 6-2 over him in the round of 16 of the Midwest Championships last year, en route to reaching the semifinals. Mullings is the highest-ranked player ever to fall victim to the Irish sophomore.
Bass’ first match on Tuesday was a much quicker affair, as he dispatched 21st-seeded Nick Rinks from Michigan State 6-2, 6-2.
“Stephen played very solid in the semis, and it really showed that he was the more experienced player,” said Doebler. “Stephen really took the match to Rinks and capitalized on his unforced errors. Rinks had been playing very well and had a great tournament, but Stephen stuck with what he wanted to do, and that was successful.”
Rinks had been on a hot streak in the 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 that duo kept winning. The Irish had a pair in the semis for the first time since 1996, when Sachire was the runner-up and Jakub Pietrowski lost in the semis.
It was the third straight year that the Irish were playing on the final day of the tournament. 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 was the fifth Irish player to reach the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships multiple times, joining Sachire (1996, ’98, ’99), Zurcher (1990, ’91, ’93), Forsyth (1991, ’92), and DiLucia (1989, ’90).
The last time two players from the same school met in the singles final of the Midwest Championships was 2002, when Illinois’ Phil Stolt won in a walkover against teammate Brian Wilson.
Wilson/ITA Midwest Championships (October 25)Singles Main Draw #77 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def.  #19 Devin Mullings (Ohio State) 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 - semifinals #74 Stephen Bass (ND) def.  Nick Rinks (Michigan State) 6-2, 6-2 - semifinals #74 Stephen Bass (ND) def.  Sheeva Parbhu (ND) 7-5, 6-2 - championship
Note: Numbers in brackets are tournament seedings. Numbers preceding names are ITA national rankings.