Feb. 24, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Having already suffered three tough 4-3 losses against teams currently in the national top 20, the 26th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (8-4) finally broke through with a 5-2 upset of previously-unbeaten and 11th-ranked Ohio State (9-1) Friday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. After being swept in doubles, the Irish won each of the first five singles matches completed – a trio of straight-setters and two in three sets – to earn their first win against a top-15 squad since 2002.
Leading 3-1, it was clear that Notre Dame – which has now won six in a row, as well as eight straight at home – would need at least one three-set victory to complete the triumph. As it turned out, both junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) and sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) rallied from dropping opening sets to win in three and give the Irish the match. It continued a trend of ND success in three-set matches, as Notre Dame players have combined to win 72% (28-11 record) of their three-setters this season. The wins came at two of OSU’s best positions, as the Buckeyes had been 8-1 at both Nos. 2 and 4 this season.
Parbhu, ranked 28th in the nation in singles, won only one game in the opening set, but rebounded to provide the clincher – for the team-leading fourth time this spring – by topping 46th-ranked Bryan Koniecko 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2. After falling in straight sets in his previous outing, the Irish sophomore stood having lost three consecutive sets for the first time in his career before he came back for victory. Parbhu now holds a 5-5 mark this season when dropping the opening frame and is 19-5 overall, including 8-3 in dual action. He is 7-3 vs. nationally-ranked players and 7-2 in three-set affairs (12-4 career), including 4-1 when the dual-match outcome is undetermined. Parbhu has now won 12 in a row at home. Koniecko, who had been 5-1 in dual play this spring, is the fourth-highest-ranked freshmen in the current ITA national singles rankings.
Keckley continued to be Notre Dame’s toughest out, as well as an outstanding competitor in tight matches. Playing No. 4 for the first time in his career when the Irish had all of their starters in the lineup, he came back from being a set down – as well as down a break in the final set – to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Chris Klingemann. Keckley moved to 5-0 this season in three-set affairs with the dual outcome undetermined (6-1 overall in three sets) and now stands an incredible 5-2 when losing the opening set, including a three-match winning streak. He leads the Irish in dual singles wins with an 11-1 record after being just 11-8 combined in dual play during his first two collegiate campaigns. Keckley improved to 13-2 overall this season and has now matched his career-long winning streak with six straight victories (three in three sets, one match tiebreaker). He has won 11 straight at home and is now 8-1 in close matches this season. Klingemann – who had been ranked 38th in the nation until falling out when the latest rankings were released this week – was 12-3 on the season, including 7-1 in dual action.
The match snapped a 17-match losing streak for ND against top-15 squads, and Ohio State was the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the Irish since Notre Dame won 4-3 at #5 Illinois on March 7, 2002. Friday marked the third time that a team ranked among the nation’s top 11 lost at Notre Dame – the first since #8 Duke lost 4-3 to the 29th-ranked Irish in the Eck Tennis Pavilion on Feb. 16, 1997. This victory also was just the third time that ND beat a top-11 team without being listed in the top 20 itself.
Friday was in direct contrast to the matchups between the schools in the past two seasons, as the Buckeyes won three of four three-setters to rally from a 3-2 deficit to win 4-3 in 2004 in their last visit to Notre Dame. A year ago, OSU again won in the final match remaining to beat the Irish 4-3.
After being dominated in doubles, Notre Dame got straight-set victories from senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.), junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School), and freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) to put them within a point of victory.
Bass, who slipped to 17th in the national rankings this week, was first off, posting a 6-2, 6-3 victory over 42nd-ranked Devin Mullings at No. 1. The Notre Dame junior has won six in a row and leads the team in overall singles victories with a 21-5 mark. Bass is now 11-5 against nationally-ranked players and has won 13 in a row at home. Mullings, a native of the Bahamas, was 19th in the nation in the preseason and won with the score tied 3-3 against ND in 2005.
Helgeson, who reentered the national rankings at 60th (fifth among freshmen) this week, was done next, beating another rookie, Steven Moneke of Germany, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 3. He has won six in a row and is now 16-4 on the season, including 9-3 in dual play. Helgeson improved to 11-0 as a collegian at home, as well as 11-0 when taking the opening set.
Langenkamp – playing as an unranked player for the first time this season – made it 3-1 by beating Dennis Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6 for his fourth straight victory. The Buckeye had been 7-1 in dual play this season.
In the longest singles match, Ross Wilson remained perfect on the spring by rallying to defeat junior Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 at No. 5 to improve to 8-0 in dual play. King had a match point, leading 6-5 in the second-set tiebreaker, but lost three straight points and then could not prevail in the decisive frame.
Ohio State swept Notre Dame in doubles for the second year in a row, losing just 10 total games. The top-ranked team in college tennis, Wilson and fellow senior Scott Green, was first off the court, downing the 51st-ranked duo of Keckley and King 8-2 at No. 1. The Buckeyes’ squad – which has won three ITA grand slams – improved to 15-1 on the season, including 9-0 in dual action, while the ND team failed in its attempt to knock off the #1-ranked team in the country for the second time in February.
Koniecko and Drew Eberly clinched the doubles point with an 8-2 victory against Langenkamp and Parbhu at No. 2. It snapped a career-high seven-match winning streak for the ND senior, and Parbhu also had won five straight in doubles.
OSU was challenged, but eventually stayed perfect at No. 3 doubles, improving to 10-0 on the spring when Klingemann and Mullings won 8-6 over Helgeson and sophomore Andrew Roth (Houston, Texas/Tenney School). That OSU team is 9-1 this season, including 7-0 in dual play.
Notre Dame snapped a three-match losing streak against Ohio State and now leads the all-time series 26-21. The Irish have won seven of the last eight at home in the series.
Next up for Notre Dame is a step outside of dual play – and one to the outdoors – as the Irish will travel to La Jolla, Calif., next week to take part in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships from March 3-6.
#26 Notre Dame 5, #11 Ohio State 2SinglesNo. 1: #17 Stephen Bass (ND) def. #42 Devin Mullings (OSU) 6-2, 6-3No. 2: * #28 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. #46 Bryan Koniecko (OSU) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3No. 3: #60 Brett Helgeson (ND) def. Steven Moneke (OSU) 6-3, 6-4No. 4: Ryan Keckley (ND) def. Chris Klingemann (OSU) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4No. 5: Ross Wilson (OSU) def. Barry King (ND) 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4No. 6: Eric Langenkamp (ND) def. Dennis Mertens (OSU) 6-3, 6-4Order of Finish: 1, 3, 6, 2*, 4, 5DoublesNo. 1: #1 Scott Green/Wilson (OSU) def. #51 Keckley/King (ND) 8-2No. 2: * Drew Eberly/Koniecko (OSU) def. Langenkamp/Parbhu (ND) 8-2No. 3: Klingemann/Mullings (OSU) def. Helgeson/Andrew Roth (ND) 8-6Order of Finish: 1, 2*, 3