Oct. 25, 2004
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Notre Dame sophomore Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) lost just four games in a straight-set victory over the 97th-ranked player in the country in quarterfinal action of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Championships Monday morning at the Varsity Tennis Center. Bass, who is the first Irish player since 1999 to reach the semifinals of the tournament of the top players in the region, will take on 94th-ranked Brian Hung of Michigan on Tuesday at 9 a.m. (EDT) with a berth in the second leg of the collegiate grand slam on the line.
One week after losing in straight sets to him on the same courts, Bass turned in a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory against 11th-seeded Joey Atas of Ohio State on Monday. In last weekend’s Wolverine Invitational, the Buckeye sophomore defeated Bass 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 in hidden-dual action. Atas, who played No. 2 for OSU last season and was ranked as high as 50th in the nation, had been unbeaten in six previous matches this fall.
“Stephen showed great intensity today,” said Notre Dame assistant coach Todd Doebler, who stayed with Bass in Ann Arbor after the remainder of the Irish returned to campus to resume classes. “He came out ready to battle for every point, and was able to get a pretty good win, especially because Stephen lost to him last week.”
Bass, the No. 15 seed and only unranked player remaining in the draw, improved to 10-2 this fall and 32-9 in his collegiate career. After not beating a nationally-ranked opponent during his rookie campaign, he notched his second top-100 win of the 2004-05 season, after having topped #56 Paul Rose of Purdue in last month’s Tom Fallon Invitational. Both of Bass’ losses have come against top-100 foes. In his collegiate career, the sophomore holds a sparkling 21-4 record in open tournaments, as well as a 21-1 mark when winning the opening set (including a current 15-match winning streak). Bass is 15-5 in his career against Midwest-Region opponents, and he also holds a 16-7 mark away from Notre Dame and a 19-8 record in indoor action.
The Bronxville, N.Y., native is the 13th Notre Dame player in the last 15 years to reach the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships, but he is the first since Ryan Sachire (’00) lost in that round in 1999 (his third appearance in the final four of the regional tournament). Sachire was the last player to reach the final of the event (in ’96), while Andy Zurcher was the most recent Notre Dame singles champion, as he won the ’93 title to complete a stretch of three Irish champions in four years.
Hung, a sophomore from Hong Kong who played Nos. 2 and 3 for Michigan last season, has gotten hot after starting the fall with three consecutive defeats. He has now won five straight, including a 6-2, 6-4 win against Notre Dame sophomore Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) in the round of 16 and a 6-4, 6-0 upset of the tournament’s top seed, 23rd-ranked Jakub Praibis of Indiana, in the quarters.
The winner of the Bass-Hung tilt will advance to the title match, to be played later on Tuesday afternoon, and face the victor of the other semifinal, which pits the No. 2 seed, #95 Ryler DeHeart of Illinois, against 13th-seeded and 116th-ranked Devin Mullings of Ohio State. Both singles finalists will earn automatic bids into the 32-player field of the second leg of the collegiate grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, slated for Nov. 4-7 in the same venue as the Midwest Championships.
Bass, who came into this weekend having lost two in a row after opening the fall 6-0, defeated Indiana’s Neil Kenner 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round before topping Octavian Nicodim, a qualifier from Louisville, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) in the second round. In Saturday’s round of 16, the Irish sophomore rallied from losing the first set and being down 4-2 in the third for a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 win against another Hoosier, freshman Mike McCarthy.
The semifinal appearance by Bass only continues the superlatives for Notre Dame in the Midwest Championships, which feature 16 nationally-ranked players in the singles draw. The Irish took up three of the eight qualifying spots into the main draw (more than any other team) to have a total of eight student-athletes among the 64-player singles field. No other school had more than six in this year’s tournament, and no team other than the Irish has qualified more than six in the main draw since the current format was adopted three years ago (Notre Dame also had seven participants last fall). All but one Irish player was victorious in the opening round, giving Notre Dame by far the most players (seven) in the round of 32. The Irish had four in the final 16 of the singles draw, also the most of any school.
The ITA Midwest Championships is an indoor singles and doubles tournament for the top players in the Midwest Region – which consists of every Big Ten Conference team but Iowa and Penn State, as well as other area schools. It is one of nine regional tournaments taking place across the country this month. The event consists of main draws of 64 in both singles and doubles, with eight spots in singles reserved for winners of a 64-player qualifying bracket. The singles finalists and doubles champions earn automatic entry into the second leg of the collegiate grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, slated for Nov. 4-7 in the same venue.
ITA Midwest Championships
Singles – Quarterfinals
 Stephen Bass (Notre Dame) def.  #97 Joey Atas (Ohio State) 6-2, 6-2
Note: Seedings are in brackets preceding national rankings, which precede names.