Sam Keeton earned a win at No. 5 singles in his first competitive action with the Irish.

In Dramatic Season Opener, Men's Tennis Falls To No. 14 Pepperdine, 4-3

Jan. 16, 2009


NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The men’s tennis team got their spring season underway as they dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 14 Pepperdine in a four-hour marathon match in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Notre Dame took the doubles point and got singles victories from Sam Keeton (Kansas City, Mo./The Pembroke Hill School) and Daniel Stahl (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) to earn its three points. The dramatic finish included the last three matches to finish all moving to a third-set tiebreak, including Stahl’s 4-6, 6-4, 6-6 (7-5) win that tied the overall match score at 3-3. With the win, Pepperdine moves to 1-0 on the season, while the Irish move to 0-1.

The match began with doubles play. At first doubles Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West) and Tyler Davis (Nashville, Tenn./Father Ryan), currently 37th in the ITA doubles rankings, served it up against 45th-ranked Bassam Beidas and Omar Altmann of Pepperdine. Second doubles pitted Stephen Havens (Cincinnati, Ohio/Hill Christian School) and Casey Watt (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland) against Stuart Keplar and Alex Llompart, while third doubles featured the Irish duo of Niall Fitzgerald (Wicklow, Ireland/Blackrock College) and Matt Johnson (Portage, Mich./Portage Central HS) versus Hugh Clarke and Jensen Turner.

Johnson and Fitzgerald got the Irish out to an early lead in doubles play as they disposed of Clarke and Turner, 8-3. The match was close at first, as Fitzgerald and Johnson held a narrow 4-3 lead, but the duo ran off four straight games for the win.

In first doubles, Helgeson and Davis cut Pepperdine’s lead to 4-5, but could not get any closer as they went on to drop a 4-8 decision to Beidas and Altmann. But the doubles tie was short-lived as Havens and Watt protected an early lead, going on to win, 8-4 and earning the Irish the doubles point.

At No. 2 singles, Pepperdine earned the first singles win of the afternoon as 51st-ranked Altmann defeated Havens, 6-4, 7-5. Finishing next was No. 1 singles, which featured a showdown between 20th-ranked Helgeson and Pepperdine’s 122nd-ranked Beidas. Beidas took the first set, 4-6. Helgeson battled back to take the second set, 6-1, before dropping the third set, 2-6.

At No. 5 singles Keeton squared off against Turner in his first action for the Irish, as the freshman was forced to miss the fall season tournaments with an injury. He won in straight sets, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 to tie the overall match score at 2-2.

Finishing next was No. 4 singles, where Watt ultimately fell to Llompart in a hard-fought, three-set match that went to a tiebreak in the third set. Watt dropped the first set, 7-5, but battled back to take the second, 6-4. In the third set, Watt was down 4-5, but broke serve to even it up at 5-5. He then held serve for the 6-5 lead, but Llompart forced a tiebreak in which he proved victorious.

Stahl then knotted the overall match at 4-4 with a victory over Pepperdine’s 57th-ranked Mahmoud Kamel, 4-6, 6-4, 6-6 (7-2). Kamel was leading the third set 5-3, but the resilient Stahl, currently ranked 112th, came back to tie it 5-5. Each player held serve and in the ensuing tiebreaker Stahl earned a 7-2 win to keep the Irish in contention for the win.

Davis played Alejandro Moreno played at No. 6 singles in what proved to be the clinching math. Davis dropped the first set, 6-4, but the sophomore followed the lead of many of his Irish teammates and rallied to force a third set with a 6-4 win. In the third set Davis was down 5-6 but rallied to tie the set at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Davis again rallied to tie the score at 3-3, but ultimately fell, 7-5.

The Irish are back in action next weekend as they travel to Virginia to take on No. 64 William & Mary and No. 5 Virginia. The Irish square off against the Tribe on Satruday, January 24 at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center in Williamsburg, Va. The match is slated for a 10:00 a.m. start. Then, on Sunday, January 25 the Irish meet the fifth-ranked Cavaliers of Virginia for a 12:00 p.m. showdown in Charlottesville, Va.

Singles competition1. #122 Bassam Beidas (PEP) def. #20 Brett Helgeson (UND) 6-4, 1-6, 6-22. #51 Omar Altmann (PEP) def. Stephen Havens (UND) 6-4, 7-53. #112 Daniel Stahl (UND) def. #57 Mahmoud Kamel (PEP) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2)4. Alex Llompart (PEP) def. Casey Watt (UND) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4)5. Samuel Keeton (UND) def. Jensen Turner (PEP) 7-6 (7-2), 6-16. Alejandro Moreno (PEP) def. Tyler Davis (UND) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5)
Doubles competition1. #45 Omar Altmann/Bassam Beidas (PEP) def. #37 Brett Helgeson/Tyler Davis (UND) 8-42. Stephen Havens/Casey Watt (UND) def. Stuart Keplar/Alex Llompart (PEP) 8-43. Niall Fitzgerald/Matt Johnson (UND) def. Hugh Clarke/Jensen Turner (PEP) 8-3
Match Notes:Pepperdine 1-0; National ranking #14Notre Dame 0-1; National ranking #30Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,1,5,4,3,6)

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