May 25, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. – Notre Dame sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) defeated Vanderbilt’s Ryan Preston 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 Thursday afternoon at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center to reach the round of 16 in the NCAA Singles Championship. The victory guarantees that he will be named an ITA All-American when those teams are announced and matches the deepest run for an Irish player in the tournament since the current field size was adopted in 1977. Also on Thursday, the doubles team of senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and junior Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) was eliminated from the opening round of the NCAA doubles tournament in a 6-0, 6-4 match against the seventh-ranked squad Rylan Rizza and Nick Meythaler of Virginia.
The singles match between two battle-tested players saw the score deadlocked at 4-4 in the final set with Preston to serve. That game would stretch through four deuces and see the Commodore, ranked 41st in the nation, have four game points denied by 32nd-ranked Parbhu. Eventually, the ND sophomore watched a Preston forehand sail long on his third break point and then served out the match. It is the sixth time an Irish student-athlete has been among the final 16 in the NCAA Singles Championship under the current 64-player format, with Ryan Sachire doing so most-recently in 1998. But none of those ND players advanced beyond that round. The last Irish competitor to do that was Maxwell Brown, who lost in the semifinals of the 1959 event en route to helping Notre Dame to a share of the NCAA title.
Parbhu’s quest will see him take on a lower-ranked player for the second day in a row, as Arizona’s Roger Matalonga from Spain, ranked 57th, is on the docket on Friday. The Wildcat senior upset the tournament’s No. 2 seed, John Isner of Georgia, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 in Thursday’s second round. Parbhu and Matalonga have played one common opponent this season: Thomas Schoeck of Boise State. The Wildcat posted a 7-6, 3-6, 1-0 (10-7) victory on March 3 in dual-match action, while Parbhu fell 6-4, 6-4 on March 18.
The Irish sophomore improved to 32-7 on the season and 64-14 in his career. He is 13-2 in tournament action this season, as well as 15-2 outdoors. Parbhu continued to have success in tight matches, improving to 8-3 in three-set affairs (13-5 career) and 17-5 in close contests (27-7 career). He also evened his record at 7-7 this season when dropping the opening set.
Preston, a first-team all-Southeastern Conference selection, broke Parbhu’s serve in the opening game of the match, and it looked for awhile as though that would be enough to take a one-set advantage. Parbhu would break back in the eighth game, but Preston responded immediately with another break and then held at love to win the opening frame.
Parbhu dominated the second set, getting a forehand volley winner on his third break point in the second game to take an advantage he would not relinquish. After adding another break in the sixth game, Parbhu served out the set.
The final set began with four consecutive holds before Parbhu took advantage of his second break point, hitting a forehand that Preston couldn’t handle to go up 3-2. But the VU sophomore came back immediately again, breaking Parbhu to even the match at 3-3.
Keckley and Langenkamp, ranked 28th in the nation, had trouble getting going in the doubles tournament, dropping the first eight games of the match. But the Irish duo would rally and make the second set competitive, getting back on serve at 4-4 before the Cavaliers broke Keckley’s serve in the ninth game of the set and then served out the match. It was the fifth consecutive defeat for the Notre Dame duo, which concluded the season with a 5-8 record together. They did go 3-3 against nationally-ranked opponents, and Langenkamp led the Irish in doubles victories with a 16-15 overall record. Keckley was 13-17. It was Notre Dame’s fourth consecutive first-round defeat in the NCAA Doubles Championship, as no Irish squad has won a match in the event since 1998.