Senior captain Sheeva Parbhu leads the Irish as they look to defend their 2007 Blue-Gray title.

Notre Dame Heads To Montgomery To Defend Title At Blue-Gray Classic

March 12, 2008

Match Details:          #30 Notre Dame (9-4) at Blue-Gray Tennis Classic            First Round vs. #49 North Carolina State (6-5)            Thursday, March 13, 2008, 9:00 AM            Lagoon Park Tennis Center, Montgomery, AL

(Tournament draw and other information available at www.bluegraytennis.com)

Notre Dame returns to the court after twelve day layoff: The Notre Dame men’s tennis team will be in action for the first time in nearly two weeks Thursday when they take to the court in the Blue-Gray Tennis Classic for the eighteenth consecutive season looking to defend the title they won last season. The Irish spent last week in California, hitting outside for the first time all year. While Notre Dame did not compete last week during spring break, they did get some valuable practice time and rest as they enter the final two months of the season.

The Irish will look to rebound this weekend from a 6-1 defeat at the hands of defending national runner-up Illinois last time out. The Irish were dominated by the home-standing Illini, with the only win coming from freshman David Anderson. The rookie’s win improved his record to 15-9 on the season. Anderson is one of a trio of freshman who has seen considerable action for the Irish this season. Stephen Havens (16-11) and Daniel Stahl (19-6) have also played more than ten dual matches this season.

ND’s History at the Blue-Gray: Notre Dame has had a history of success in the annual tournament. The Irish have claimed the title three times in 1993, 2001, and 2007, and have finished second three other times. Notre Dame has finished 7th or better in all but one of its appearances. The Irish’s last five years in the tournament are detailed below:

2007- 1st (defeated Alabama in championship)2006- 2nd (lost to VCU in championship)2005- T-5th2004- T-7th2003- T-11th

Scouting the Wolfpack: Notre Dame will face North Carolina State Thursday for the second time ever, and the first time since a 6-3 victory April 4, 1956. NC State, which made an appearance in the Elite Eight last season, is looking to snap a two-match losing streak. The Wolfpack fell to Wake Forest and Indiana last week, with both losses coming by 4-3 scores. NC State also had another 4-3 loss at the hands of Rice earlier this year. The Wolfpack’s best win was a 5-2 victory over #28 Wisconsin in a home match last month.

NC State returns seven members of last year’s quarterfinal team. They include juniors Jay Weinacker and Christian Welte who each have eight dual wins on the season leading the team. Welte has already faced the Irish in two singles matches this season, both in the fall at the Willam & Mary Invitational. The Wolfpack junior fell to Sheeva Parbhu in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, before besting David Anderson by a 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-4) score.

Scouting the Field: The Blue-Gray tournament features thirteen of the sixteen teams that took part in the 2007 event including the defending champion (Notre Dame) and runner-up (Alabama). The field also features thirteen teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament last season. They are:

Tulsa (first round)William & Mary (first round)Penn State (first round)VCU (first round)Oklahoma (second round)Boise State (second round)Auburn (second round)Texas Tech (second round)Wisconsin (lost second round to Notre Dame)Alabama (round of 16)Oklahoma State (round of 16)Notre Dame (round of 16)NC State (elite eight)

In addition to these NCAA qualifying teams, there are three Notre Dame dual opponents in the field. Notre Dame has defeated Penn State twice this season, once in a 5-2 home decision in the season opener, and once in the consolation round of the ITA indoor championships last month by a 4-2 score. The Irish downed Wisconsin 4-3 in a four-hour classic last month at the Eck Pavilion, and will challenge possible second round opponent William & Mary next month at home.

The tournament will also feature a bevy of highly ranked teams. Five top 25 teams will join the Irish in the Blue Gray Classic this weekend. Potential second-round opponent Tulsa is the highest ranked team in the field at #8. #19 VCU, #21 Alabama, #24 Oklahoma State, and #25 Texas Tech will also travel to Montgomery to participate in the tournament.

Rankings Update: Notre Dame fell to #30 in the latest ITA poll, released Tuesday. Brett Helgeson moved up fifteen places to a #17 singles ranking and was joined in the polls by teammate Sheeva Parbhu who was ranked 81st. North Carolina State has one ranked singles player, James McGee at #104 and a ranked doubles team in Weinacker and Nick Cavaday, who are ranked sixth.