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MEN’S TENNIS: Irish travel west for tourney

Rama Gottumukkala | Thursday, March 3, 2005

The forecast for the next few days is sunny and 70 degrees – in California. It should be a welcome respite for the men’s tennis team, which heads out to La Jolla, Calif., to take part in the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships March 3-6.For the seventh time in the last eight years, Notre Dame (10-3) will compete in this annual doubles competition, one of the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournaments in the nation. The names of winners at the event feature a who’s who of tennis greats, including John McEnroe and Stan Smith.While the competition features a few professionals and a few junior players, the field consists primarily of college players. Because there are non-collegiate players in the event, the results do not count in the college rankings and should provide valuable practice opportunities for the Irish.”It’s something that we look forward to very much,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “It gives us an opportunity to make the transition to outdoors. This tournament allows us to do this where the results don’t hurt us and yet the level of competition is as good as anything we’ll see all year, including the NCAA Championships.”Among the slated teams entered in the event are Stanford, UCLA, USC and Pepperdine – all top 20 teams. These schools will enter some of their nationally-ranked doubles teams in the tournament, providing plenty of competition for Notre Dame’s own tennis duos.”It’s hard not to improve because you’re surrounded by some of the top doubles teams in the country,” Bayliss said. “You’re forced to meet that level of competition so all our guys benefit from being here.”The Irish will enter four doubles teams into the competition this year. The first three duos have seen plenty of doubles play already this season. Playing at the No. 1 slot will be senior captain Brent D’Amico and sophomore Ryan Keckley. “Our No. 1 team has had some real bright spots this year, but also some poor matches,” Bayliss said. “But they’ve played extremely well and it looks like they’re beginning to gel, just in time for this stretch run here at the last half of the season.”Junior Eric Langenkamp and freshman Sheeva Parbhu comprise the No. 2 team and sophomores Stephen Bass and Barry King will play as the No. 3 team. Junior Patrick Buchanan and sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani will round out the Irish duos entered in the event.”Eric and Sheeva have been a little more consistent, but they’ve had a couple matches in a row that they didn’t play well,” Bayliss said. “So it was great to see them rebound [against Virginia]. The biggest concern is at No. 3. We have good tennis players who can do different things well – some serve well, some return well and some volley well – but we’re looking for the whole package.”Notre Dame has been busy with dual match play in the last few weeks. The next few days should provide a relaxed, yet competitive, atmosphere for the Irish as they prepare for the season’s stretch run. The team will conclude the weekend with a dual match against St. Joseph’s at noon on March 6.