Sept. 21, 2006
The home portion of the 2006 fall season for the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team begins this weekend as the Irish host the 20th Annual Tom Fallon Invitational. Six teams, including a pair of Notre Dame squads, will take part in singles and doubles play from Friday through Sunday at the Courtney Tennis Center and, if necessary due to inclement weather, the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
Notre Dame went 19-9 in 2006 and reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the first time since 2002. The victories were the most for an Irish squad since that same season.
Junior Sheeva Parbhu and senior Stephen Bass, who were No. 20 and No. 21 in singles respectively in the ITA preseason rankings, lead the Irish contingent. Parbhu and Bass were also ranked in the top 100 in the preseason rankings a year ago.
Parbhu and senior Ryan Keckley are the highest ranked Irish doubles team at No. 36. Bass and sophomore Brett Helgeson enter the season at No. 46.
Last year, Parbhu was the first Irish player to be named an ITA All-American since 2001-02. He finished with a 33-8 record and was 28th in the final ITA national singles rankings. Parbhu was the first Notre Dame men’s player to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship since 1959.
He posted the most singles wins by an Irish player in a season since current Irish assistant coach Ryan Sachire was 37-9 in 1998-99. Parbhu was 14-3 in tournament action and shared the team lead in singles victories in dual matches with a 19-5 record (39-8 career). Among the biggest of those victories was a three-set triumph against Ohio State’s Bryan Koniecko that clinched a 5-2 victory over the Buckeyes (their lone loss of the regular season). He posted an 11-4 record against nationally ranked players, including 5-3 versus higher-ranked foes. Parbhu, now 65-15, was listed among the top 35 all spring.
Bass, who finished last season ranked No. 27, went 27-14 and 14-12 in dual action a season ago, mostly at No. 1 singles. He only dropped two of his 20 matches within the region. Bass climbed as high as No. 8 in the ITA rankings after eight consecutive victories over ranked opponents to open the season. He not only captured the ITA Midwest Championship, but reached the ITA National Indoor Championship quarterfinals before losing to No. 4 John Isner of Georgia.
Keckley went 21-7 in singles action and 19-6 in dual play, including 11-5 at No. 4 and 8-1 at No. 5. He and Parbhu only teamed up for six matches last season and the duo went 2-4.
Helgeson went 23-11 overall and 16-10 in dual action. He split time last season at No. 3 (1-0), No. 4 (11-8) and No. 5 (8-1). He and Bass did not play a match together in 2005-06, but Helgeson went 12-9 in his doubles matches, while Bass went 7-10.
The invitational was born in the fall of 1970 when legendary Irish head coach Tom Fallon prevailed upon the Notre Dame athletic department to add a fall season to the men’s tennis schedule. The first of 18 such events took place that fall. When Fallon retired in 1987 after 31 years guiding the Notre Dame program, the event was renamed the Tom Fallon Invitational in his honor. Fallon compiled a 514-194 (.726) record and helped the Irish to a share of the 1959 national championship. He was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1988.
Initially conceived of as a dual-match tournament, the event was changed first to a series of singles and doubles flights and finally to a “hidden dual” format, in 2000. Teams play simulated matches against each other, but there are no team scores recorded. All individual results are counted for ranking purposes.
The field consists of Ball State, Purdue, Western Michigan, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. The Irish will feature a “Blue” and “Gold” squad. The Cardinals, Boilermakers and Badgers are on the Irish dual-match schedule as well (Apr. 10 at Ball State, Mar. 25 at Purdue, Feb. 11 at Wisconsin).
All matches are slated to be outdoors at the Courtney Tennis Center, but due to an uncertain forecast for the weekend, the Eck Tennis Pavilion and nearby South Bend Racket Club also are available.
— ND —