Feb. 4, 2006
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Notre Dame juniors Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) and Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s) won 8-4 over the nation’s #1-ranked doubles team, but it was not enough as the Irish men’s tennis team (2-2) dropped two of four three-set matches to fall 4-3 to unbeaten North Carolina (6-0) Saturday afternoon in a four-and-a-half-hour match in the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The Irish will have little time to rest, as they will return to action by playing at #9 Duke on Sunday and then at #3 Illinois on Tuesday.
“North Carolina was really well-prepared, came out with a ton of intensity and played a great match,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss. “We didn’t quite meet their level of intensity or execution at critical times. They deserve a lot of credit.”
North Carolina led 2-1 with all of the remaining matches in third sets. After losing the first set, Keckley rallied for a 4-6, 6-0, 7-5 win against Sebastian Guejman from Argentina at No. 5. The Notre Dame junior improved to 6-1 this season, with his only defeat coming in a third-set tiebreaker. Keckley is unbeaten in four matches this spring, all at No. 5, after being just 11-8 in dual singles action during his first two collegiate seasons. He is now 2-1 this season when dropping the opening set and is the only Irish player to be unbeaten in dual singles play. Guejman came into the match with a 4-0 mark this spring, all at No. 4.
Notre Dame’s best chance for an elusive fourth point probably came at No. 3 singles, where King – who provided the clinching victory in last year’s 5-2 ND upset of then-#18 North Carolina – won the first set 6-1 and led 3-1 in the second, before senior Brad Pomeroy staged a comeback. He rallied to win after losing the first set for the 10th time in his career, eventually prevailing 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 to put UNC up 3-2. It was the first defeat for King this season.
The No. 1 match featured a contest between two of the top eight players in the latest version of ITA national singles rankings. Raian Luchici of Romania, ranked #5, beat Notre Dame eighth-ranked Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) for the second consecutive season. He rallied from losing the opening set to prevail 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, getting a service break in the seventh game of the final set and hitting a passing-shot winner on match point to clinch the Tar Heels’ triumph. Bass – who had been 13-0 in 2005-06 when taking the opening set – now stands 15-3 on the season, with all of his defeats coming against top-10 players (two of them in three sets).
Sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.), ranked 14th nationally, struggled early against senior Derek Porter at No. 2, but then came back to prevail 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 to provide the final margin. Parbhu improved to 14-3 on the campaign, including 3-1 in his first season playing at No. 2, and rallied to win after dropping the opening set for the fifth time in his young career. He is 4-1 in three-set affairs this season, as well as 9-3 in his career.
North Carolina won the doubles point despite the Irish upset at the top position. Guejman and Porter were first off the court, defeating Bass and senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) 8-4 at No. 3. At No. 2, Parbhu and freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) held a 4-1 edge and had a pair of break points to go up 5-1, but then saw the tide of the contest shift, as Lenny Gullan of South Africa and David Stone came back for an 8-5 victory to give UNC a 1-0 advantage in the match.
It was then that Keckley and King finished an 8-4 victory against Luchici and Pomeroy, the #1-ranked team in the nation, at No. 1. The Tar Heel duo had been 12-3 on the season after fighting through qualifying and advancing all the way to the title match of the season’s first grand slam, the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships, in September and then reaching the semis of the second slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship. Keckley and King are now 8-2 in their careers as a team, including 2-1 this season since first being paired together last weekend. It was the first win over a top-10 doubles team for an Irish duo since Javier Taborga and Casey Smith downed #7 Michael Calkins and Amer Delic of Illinois on March 7, 2002. King earned his first-ever win over a ranked team in doubles, while Keckley – who is currently ranked 12th nationally with Langenkamp – has five to his credit.
Notre Dame senior captain Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) was the quickest off the court in singles. He tied the team score at 1-1 by downing Will Plyler 6-2, 6-4 at No. 6. Buchanan snapped a two-match skid and won for the first time since Oct. 14, improving to 6-2 this season.
The No. 4 match had a marathon opening set that lasted 95 minutes and ended with UNC’s Benjamin Carlotti, a Frenchman, winning 7-4 in a tiebreaker against Helgeson. Carlotti, ranked 93rd nationally, was up 3-0 in the second set, when the Notre Dame freshman was forced to retire due to cramping in his leg.
It was the sixth time in the last 10 matches between the schools that the final score was 4-3 (UNC is 4-2 in those contests). Carolina now holds a 10-7 advantage in the all-time series and has won five of its last seven matches against the Irish. UNC has won three straight at home and now has a 6-5 record against Notre Dame teams carrying a higher national ranking. Carolina is one of just three schools – also Michigan (leads all-time series with ND 41-25) and Duke (14-4) – to have registered 10 or more all-time victories against Notre Dame and also lead the all-time series with the Irish.
The series pits two of the top programs in the country, as North Carolina’s 1,379 all-time victories are the most in college tennis, and Notre Dame’s 1,015 rank seventh. A year ago, the Irish beat the Tar Heels at home to become the seventh member of the 1,000-win club.
#30 North Carolina 4, #26 Notre Dame 3SinglesNo. 1: *#5 Raian Luchici (UNC) def. #8 Stephen Bass (ND) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4No. 2: #14 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. Derek Porter (UNC) 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2No. 3: Brad Pomeroy (UNC) def. Barry King (ND) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3No. 4: #93 Benjamin Carlotti (UNC) def. Brett Helgeson (ND) 7-6 (7-4), 3-0, ret.No. 5: Ryan Keckley (ND) def. Sebastian Guejman (UNC) 4-6, 6-0, 7-5No. 6: Patrick Buchanan (ND) def. Will Plyler (UNC) 6-2, 6-4Order of Finish: 6, 4, 5, 3, 1*, 2DoublesNo. 1: Keckley/King (ND) def. #1 Luchici/Pomeroy (UNC) 8-4No. 2: *Lenny Gullan/David Stone (UNC) def. Helgeson/Parbhu (ND) 8-5No. 3: Guejman/Porter (UNC) def. Bass/Langenkamp (ND) 8-4Order of Finish: 3, 2*, 1