May 14, 2005
URBANA, Ill. – The 32nd-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (18-8) saw its season end Saturday afternoon, losing 4-1 to #33 Louisville (22-9) at the University of Illinois’ Atkins Tennis Center. The Irish lost a tiebreaker in the final match on court to drop the doubles point and could not recover from that deficit. Notre Dame finished the season with 18 victories, its highest season total since 2001-02.
The Cardinals pulled out the doubles point and then got straight-set victories at Nos. 3 and 5 singles, as well as a three-set triumph at No. 1. ND had opportunities to rally for the victory, as two of the three singles wins by Louisville were in tightly-contested matches. Meanwhile, one of the abandoned singles tilts was in a third set and the other was in a second-set tiebreaker.
Notre Dame’s lone point came from freshman Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.), who picked up his 32nd win of the season in singles. Sophomores Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) and Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) were winners in doubles.
The doubles point proved to be the turning point in the match, and it came down to the No. 1 position, where the 44th-ranked team of Jeremy Clark and Jakob Gustafsson of Louisville eventually won 7-5 in a tiebreaker against Irish senior co-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School [TX]) and junior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.). The Irish duo fell to 0-3 this season in tiebreakers.
Keckley and King put the doubles point in the hands of the No. 1 teams, defeating Jhonny Berrido and Radman 8-5 at No. 2. The Irish team went 6-1 since first being paired together on March 26, with the lone defeat a 9-7 decision against Ohio State. Keckley improved to 20-13 in doubles, and he led Notre Dame in wins in dual-match action, ending with a 16-9 record.
First off the court in doubles were Damar Johnson and Mark Kennedy of Louisville, who posted an 8-3 triumph against Parbhu and sophomore Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) at No. 3.
Louisville extended its advantage to 2-0 quickly, with Jeremy Clark completing a 6-2, 6-4 victory at No. 5 against sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School), who recently missed nearly two weeks of practice with an injury.
Next done was Johnson, ranked 76th in the nation. He won just a single game in the first set of his No. 1 match with Bass, but he rallied for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 triumph to put the Cardinals within a single point of victory. It snapped a 28-match winning streak for Bass in matches that saw him win the opening set. It was just the second loss after winning the first set (in 37 opportunities) of Bass’ collegiate career, as well as just his third career three-set defeat and fifth outdoor loss.
Parbhu got Notre Dame on the board with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Octavian Nicodim at No. 4. The Irish rookie finished his first collegiate campaign with a 32-7 singles record, including 20-3 in dual-match action, leading the team with both marks. His victory total was the most for an Irish player since Matthew Scott was 32-5 in 2001-02 and the most for a Notre Dame rookie since Ryan Sachire posted a 37-9 mark in 1996-97. Parbhu, who was voted the squad’s MVP by his teammates last month, was just the seventh Irish freshman ever to win 30+ singles matches. He finished the season on a seven-match winning streak, and he was 19-4 away from home, 19-4 outdoors, and 13-2 against the Midwest Region.
Jakob Gustafsson saved Louisville from any further drama, clawing out a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 victory against 115th-ranked King at No. 3 to end the match and deny Notre Dame any opportunity to mount a comeback. It was the first time in nearly two months (since March 17 vs. Illinois) and just the second time since February (13 total matches) that the Irish were defeated at No. 3 singles. It was easily ND’s most-consistent spot, as the Irish still finished the season with a 22-4 (.846) record there.
At No. 2, D’Amico had just split sets with Radman, but the two were unable to begin their final set before Gustafsson ended the match. The Irish senior – who beat Radman 7-5, 6-2 last fall in the ITA Midwest Championships – dropped the opening set 6-4, but then rallied for a 6-2 win in the second. D’Amico, who earned various awards over the past months for his athletic, academic, and sportsmanship achievements, concluded his career as the Irish record holder in career doubles-point-clinching wins (21).
Junior Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) was attempting to do the same in his match at No. 6. Nicolas Houard won the first set 6-4, and the players were in a second-set tiebreaker when their match was abandoned. Buchanan – who became the fastest Notre Dame player ever to register 20 singles victories in a season (doing it on Jan. 29) – finished with a 29-9 record.
The match provided the first chapter in a budding rivalry, as the Cardinals will become members of the BIG EAST Conference next season. The Irish easily captured their second consecutive league title (and fifth in 10 years of conference membership) last month, while Louisville was the runner-up in the Conference USA tournament. It was the first meeting between the schools since 1988 and just the fifth overall. Notre Dame had won each prior contest.
The Irish will lose four seniors to graduation, but just one (D’Amico) was in their starting lineup, meaning Notre Dame will return seven of its top eight players for the 2005-06 season.
[No. 33-48 seed] #33 Louisville 4, [No. 17-32 seed] #32 Notre Dame 1SinglesNo. 1: #76 Damar Johnson (L) def. Stephen Bass (ND) 1-6, 6-4, 6-3No. 2: Brent D'Amico (ND) vs. Slavko Radman (L) 4-6, 6-2, abandonedNo. 3: Jakob Gustafsson (L) def. #115 Barry King (ND) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3No. 4: Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Octavian Nicodim (L) 6-1, 6-4No. 5: Jeremy Clark (L) def. Irackli Akhvlediani (ND) 6-2, 6-4No. 6: Nicolas Houard (L) led Patrick Buchanan (ND) 6-4, 6-6, abandonedOrder of Finish: 5, 1, 4, 3*DoublesNo. 1: #44 Clark/Gustafsson (L) def. D'Amico/Eric Langenkamp (ND) 9-8 (7-5)No. 2: Ryan Keckley/King (ND) def. Jhonny Berrido/Radman (L) 8-5No. 3: Johnson/Mark Kennedy (L) def. S. Bass/Parbhu (ND) 8-3Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1*