Nov. 4, 2005
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Junior Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) knocked off the tournament’s No. 6 seed on Friday in the Racquet Club of Columbus to become just the second Notre Dame player ever to reach the quarterfinals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, the season’s second grand slam. He then lost a close match against the No. 2 seed to complete an impressive fall portion of the 2005-06 campaign for the Irish men’s tennis team. Notre Dame will return to action on Jan. 22 at regional-rival Northwestern before beginning the home dual-match slate on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. (EST) against William and Mary.
Bass opened the day with an upset of sixth-seeded and 13th-ranked Luke Shields from Boise State by scores of 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. He then lost 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) to #4 John Isner from Georgia in a battle of unbeatens. Sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) – who combined with Bass to make ND one of just two teams (along with 17-time national champion Stanford) with multiple players among the final 16 – saw his run end with a 7-5, 6-4 defeat against Mislav Hizak from Embry-Riddle College.
“It’s very exciting to see Stephen and Sheeva come to such a prestigious tournament and beat and hang in there against some of the best players in the country,” said Irish assistant coach Todd Doebler, who accompanied the duo. “Obviously, this will give them a boost in confidence, and hopefully the taste they got from playing in this event will make them push harder and continue to develop their games. I’m extremely proud to see how their games have evolved. The success we’ve had this fall was very exciting not only for them, but for the entire program. I think our guys are starting to see that buying into everything and working hard is beginning to pay off. It is an indication of good things to come for Irish tennis.”
Bass faced two of the hottest players in college tennis on Friday. Shields had been 11-1 this fall, with his lone defeat coming in the round of 16 of the season’s first grand slam, the Polo Ralph Lauren ITA All-American Championships, against national #1 Ryler DeHeart of Illinois in a three-set affair. Shields won the singles title in the Wilson/ITA Mountain Regional Championships and prevailed last spring in a three-set match (6-4, 4-6, 6-0) against the now-graduated Brent D’Amico of Notre Dame at No. 1 singles in a 4-3 upset win by the Broncos in the quarterfinals of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic.
“Stephen played really well in his first match,” said Doebler. “Luke Shields is a tough out. You definitely have to beat him; he won’t give you anything. Stephen played well in the first set, and the second was tight. In the third, Stephen broke serve to go up 4-2 and again to win the match. He played really solid and took some chances and moved forward and was able to capitalize on some chances by getting into net.”
In the quarterfinals, Bass broke serve in the first game of the match and served for the set at 5-4. But Isner saved a set point and broke serve, then held and broke again to take the opening set. Both players used strong serving in the second set, which featured no service breaks, sending it to a tiebreaker. Isner improved to 13-0 this fall. He claimed the singles title in the All-American Championships.
“This was a great match,” said Doebler. “John Isner is probably playing the best tennis of anyone in the college game right now. In Stephen’s time here at Notre Dame, today was the best tennis he has played, by far and away. To beat a tough player like Luke Shields and then to play a tough match and have chances against one of the elite players in the country was quite an accomplishment.”
Bass, ranked 74th, concluded the fall season with a 13-1 record that included eight victories against nationally-ranked players. For the third time this fall, he registered the highest-ranked victory of his collegiate career to date. Heading into this season, his top win came against then-#56 Paul Rose of Purdue in the 2004 Tom Fallon Invitational. In this year’s TFI, Bass downed 42nd-ranked Matko Maravic of Michigan. He followed that up with a win vs. #16 Rylan Rizza of Virginia in Thursday’s first round. A year ago, Bass was the first Irish sophomore since 1998 to play No. 1 singles, but he came into this season with just a 4-13 mark against ranked players. He is 59-22 in his career.
Parbhu got up a service break in the opening set, but Hizak broke back and then battled to a tight victory. Hizak is a native of Croatia from Embry-Riddle College, an NAIA institution in Daytona Beach, Fla. He earned a spot in the tournament by winning the ITA National Small College Championships singles title last month and then knocked off the national #1 player and top-seeded defending champion DeHeart 6-3, 6-4 in Thursday’s opening round.
“Sheeva definitely had some opportunities, but he needed to play a little better to beat a player that talented,” said Doebler. “He played well and had opportunities, but just couldn’t convert.”
Parbhu, ranked 77th nationally, concluded the fall with an 11-2 mark, with his lone prior defeat coming against his teammate, Bass, in the title match of the Wilson/ITA Midwest Championships. The team MVP last year with a 32-7 record, including 20-3 in dual action at Nos. 3 and 4, he had not been nationally-ranked as a collegian prior to this fall, but he responded by going 4-2 against ranked players (after being 1-2 last season). Parbhu is now 43-9 in his career.
Just six schools – Duke, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Virginia – qualified two players for the 32-player singles draw (none had more than two). Only the Irish and Cardinal saw both of their entrants reach the final 16.
This year marked the fourth time – all since 1992 – that Notre Dame has had multiple players in the men’s singles draw of the National Indoor Championships, but the first since 1995. Each of those previous instances had seen one competitor lose in the first round and the other win one match before falling in the round of 16. Only one Irish player – Ryan Sachire in 2000 (which also marks the last time a Notre Dame player took part in the singles draw) – had ever advanced past the round of 16 into the quarterfinals.
Notre Dame took part in five events this fall, posting impressive results in each. Before stepping onto the court, the team placed four among the top 125 in singles in the ITA’s preseason national rankings after spending most of last year with no one or just one player ranked in singles. The Irish were one of just eight schools (along with Virginia-7 players, Illinois-6, Florida-5, Duke-4, Miami-4, and Texas-4) to have a quartet of singles players ranked, and it was the first time Notre Dame did that since the 2001-02 season, which saw the Irish peak at fourth in the national rankings en route to reaching the NCAA round of 16. Bass earned a career-high listing, while the other three ND players were ranked for the first time as collegians.
The Irish began with their home tournament, the Tom Fallon Invitational, in which Notre Dame players combined for a 38-10 record (29-6 in singles), including 5-0 against nationally-ranked opposition. Senior Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) – who saw some time at No. 6 singles last year – jump started the fall by becoming the first Irish player to win a title in the ITA National Summer Championships. That triumph earned him a wild card into the season’s first grand slam, the Polo Ralph Lauren ITA All-American Championships, in which he earned a consolation upset of the 15th-ranked player in the nation.
Next, Notre Dame prevailed 6-1 over USC in an exhibition match. It was the largest margin of victory for the Irish in 15 all-time meetings against the 16-time national champions, who finished last spring ranked 21st nationally. ND – which finished fourth in the final 2004-05 Midwest Region rankings – had an outstanding showing at the Wilson/ITA Midwest Championships. Bass and Parbhu made the Irish the only team with multiple players in the quarterfinals, and those two continued to win until finally meeting in the first-ever all-Notre Dame singles final in the event, won by the older player (who became the first Irish singles champ since 1993). Among the other top teams in the Midwest Region are 2003 NCAA champion Illinois (which finished last season ranked sixth and was listed #1 in 24 consecutive sets of the ITA rankings before losing in the ’04 national semifinals), Ohio State (which finished last year ranked 24th after peaking at 10th), and new BIG EAST rival Louisville (which peaked at 24th last season and defeated Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAAs before finishing 33rd).
Bass and Parbhu – the first Irish duo to play in the ITA National Indoors since 1995 – capped off the fall with another impressive outing, both upsetting top-30 players in the opening round to make Notre Dame one of just two schools (along with 17-time national champion Stanford) to have multiple players among the final 16 in the draw. Bass earned a second consecutive top-20 win to match the best-ever result by an Irish player in the event.
Notre Dame returned six of eight starters from last year’s team that finished 18-7, won the BIG EAST championship for the second year in a row, and finished 37th in the national rankings after peaking at 16th. The Irish will face a difficult slate in the spring portion of the campaign, taking on six teams that finished last year among the national top 25, including five that reached the final 16 of the NCAA Championship. In all, 17 of the 19 teams on Notre Dame’s schedule ended last year ranked among the top 75, with 14 earning NCAA invitations.
ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships (November 4)Singles Main DrawMislav Hizak (Embry-Riddle) def. #77 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) 7-5, 6-4 - round of 16#74 Stephen Bass (ND) def.  #13 Luke Shields (Boise State) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 - round of 16 #4 John Isner (Georgia) def. #74 Stephen Bass (ND) 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) - quarterfinals