May 12, 2006
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) came through with a three-set victory in the final match remaining to hand the 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (18-8) a 4-3 victory over Ivy League champion Brown (20-10) Friday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Championship at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The Irish – who earned their first NCAA victory since 2002 – will face either Texas-Arlington or host 19th-ranked and 16th-seeded Texas A&M in the second round on Saturday at 4 p.m. (CT). The official TAMU athletics website, aggieathletics.com, will feature both live scoring and live video of the contest.
Brown won the doubles point, but Notre Dame came back to take five of the six opening sets in singles (the only defeat coming in a tiebreaker) to take control of the match. The Irish converted three of those victories in straight sets, but the remaining three contests went the distance. Trailing 3-1, Brown pulled out tight three-set victories at Nos. 1 and 4 to knot the score at 3-3 and put the match in the hands of the No. 3 players.
Helgeson battled through two tough sets with junior Eric Thomas, who has played 14 matches at the top two spots this spring, and then took control in the decisive frame for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 victory at No. 3. The rookie continued to be a clutch performer for the Irish, improving to 5-1 as a collegian in three-set matches when the dual outcome is as yet undetermined. Helgeson is 22-10 overall this season, including 15-9 in dual play. He is now 6-2 in three-set affairs and 10-3 in close matches. Helgeson earned his fourth match-clinching victory of the season and became the first ND freshman to win with the team score tied 3-3 since Javier Taborga did so against Miami in the title match of the 1999 BIG EAST Championship. Helgeson is just the second Notre Dame freshman ever to provide the clinching win in a 4-3 match in the NCAA tournament. Ryan Simme accomplished that against Minnesota in the final of the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship in 1994.
Senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.), junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College), and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) all provided two-set victories in singles to set up Helgeson’s heroics. First off the court was Parbhu, who beat freshman Basu Ratnman 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2. The Irish sophomore, ranked 32nd in the nation, again avoided the first two-match losing streak of his collegiate career and posted his team-leading 29th victory of the season (as opposed to seven defeats). He is 18-5 in dual-match action, as well as 12-2 outdoors. Parbhu has won seven of his last eight decisions, with the lone defeat coming in a third-set tiebreaker.
King put Notre Dame ahead with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Phil Charm at No. 5. He moved to 14-8 this season and finished a match for the first time in nearly a month after having all three of his singles matches in the BIG EAST tournament abandoned.
Langenkamp, the lone senior in the Irish lineup, put Notre Dame within a point of victory by topping fellow senior Luke Tedaldi 6-2, 6-1 at No. 6. He is 15-10 overall this season, including 11-5 in dual play. It was the first career victory – in singles or doubles – for Langenkamp in the NCAA tournament.
Junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School), ranked 21st in the nation, appeared to be on his way to an easy victory after a shutout first set, but 112th-ranked Dan Hanegby rallied for a 0-6, 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 1. Saurabh Kohli tied the score at 3-3 with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win against ND junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) at No. 4.
Brown got wins at the top and bottom spots to take the doubles point. Thomas and Sam Garland were done first, beating Bass and freshman Santiago Montoya (Scottsdale, Ariz./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) 8-6 at No. 3. Charm and Chris Lee then clinched the point by upsetting Keckley and Langenkamp, ranked 28th in the nation, by an 8-3 score at No. 1. Notre Dame’s team of King and Parbhu were up 8-7 at No. 2 against Hanegby and Kohli when that match was abandoned.
The Irish came back to win the match after dropping the doubles point for the sixth time this season, improving to 6-6 this spring when losing that point.
ND has been no stranger to tight matches, as exactly half of its 26 contests this spring have been undecided with only three-set matches remaining on the court. The Irish are now 7-6 in those, including 3-3 in 4-3 affairs.
Notre Dame – making its 15th appearance in the last 16 years – is now 13-14 in the NCAA tournament since it adopted its current dual-match format in 1977. The Irish are 8-10 when playing away from home and 4-3 in the round of 64 since the switch to a bracket of that size in 1999. ND will be seeking to reach the round of 16 for the first time since 2002 and the sixth time overall. Brown, making its fourth trip to the NCAAs, was seeking its first victory.
The Irish won for the first time in three all-time matches at the Mitchell Tennis Center.
It was the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Brown in men’s tennis, though Irish head coach Bob Bayliss now holds a 14-2 career mark against the Bears. That was accrued mostly during his time at Navy and MIT.
The Irish and UT-Arlington have never met, but Notre Dame and A&M played on March 26 of this season, with the Aggies prevailing 5-1 in College Station. The Irish were without an injured Helgeson in that contest. TAMU leads the all-time series 3-1.
[No. 17-32 seed] #18 Notre Dame 4, [No. 33-48 seed] #63 Brown 3SinglesNo. 1: #112 Dan Hanegby (B) def. #21 Stephen Bass (ND) 0-6, 6-2, 7-5No. 2: #32 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Basu Ratnam (B) 6-2, 6-4No. 3: * Brett Helgeson (ND) def. Eric Thomas (B) 6-4, 5-7, 6-1No. 4: Saurabh Kohli (B) def. Ryan Keckley (ND) 7-6, 3-6, 6-4No. 5: Barry King (ND) def. Phil Charm (B) 6-1, 6-3No. 6: Eric Langenkamp (ND) def. Luke Tedaldi (B) 6-2, 6-1Order of Finish: 2, 5, 6, 1, 4, 3*DoublesNo. 1: * Charm/Chris Lee (B) def. #28 Keckley/Langenkamp (ND) 8-3No. 2: King/Parbhu (ND) led Henegby/Kohli (B) 8-7, abandonedNo. 3: Sam Garland/Thomas (B) def. Bass/Santiago Montoya (ND) 8-6Order of Finish: 3, 1** - indicates clinching victory