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Irish fall short in 4-3 loss

Rama Gottumakkala | Thursday, April 14, 2005

For the second time in the last three matches, injuries plagued the Notre Dame tennis squad and forced the team to change its game plan. While its last attempt to recover from an injury-ridden contest ended in a lopsided 5-2 defeat to Southern Methodist, the No. 29 Irish came within one match of pulling out a victory against No. 30 Ohio State.

With senior captain Brent D’Amico forced to watch from the sidelines, the Irish had to make up an early 3-1 deficit yesterday against the Buckeyes. Winning the next three singles matches put the team within a singles victory of the match win, leaving Barry King in the last singles match on court.

But cramps affected the Irish sophomore late in the match. After taking an injury timeout, King returned to the No. 2 singles match but lost 7-5, 7-5 to Ohio State’s Devin Mullings.

“I felt we played a very courageous match,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “But today was a day where it was kind of within our grasp, and we weren’t quite able to take the match. Barry played one of his better matches of the year. I thought the No. 2 match was the highest level of all the matches, and Barry played very well but just didn’t quite win.”

D’Amico has been coping with a nagging hamstring injury since the beginning of the month, an injury that kept him out of singles play against Southern Methodist. But the senior was able to play in the team’s last match against Ball State, a 6-1 team victory. Unfortunately, D’Amico’s leg once again caused him trouble during doubles play.

“We thought [Brent] was going to be okay, but as doubles went on, his leg tightened up and he wasn’t able to play singles, which is unfortunate,” Bayliss said. “But life goes on, and you’ve got to play with the hand you’re dealt.”

The reshuffled doubles teams the Irish have been sporting for the past few weeks played well against the formidable Buckeye competition. D’Amico and junior Eric Langenkamp lost 8-2 to the Ohio State duo of Scott Green and Ross Wilson, the No. 1 doubles team in the nation.

Notre Dame also had chances in the other two doubles matches but dropped both in close contests. Sophomores Ryan Keckley and King lost a close 9-7 decision to Ohio State’s Chris Klingemann and Mullings. Sophomore Stephen Bass and freshman Sheeva Parbhu were playing a close 8-7 contest against Joey Atas and Drew Eberly before the match was abandoned to finish before darkness set in on the outdoors play.

“We’re somewhat pleased with the new doubles pairings,” Bayliss said. “Ohio State’s very good in doubles, and we knew that. We lost No. 1 doubles badly, but again Brent wasn’t 100 percent. We were up 7-2 at No. 2 and lost 9-7. We really let that match get away. We were up two breaks and just didn’t pull the trigger when it was there.”

Although D’Amico, who has played at the No. 1 singles slot for most of the season, was missed in singles play, the Irish closed the early gap in the heart of their lineup. Parbhu, junior Patrick Buchanan and Langenkamp posted three crucial singles victories at the No. 3, 5 and 6 slots, respectively, to bring the match closer within reach.

“It’s good to know that we can come out and play a quality team right to the hilt on the road without one of our top players,” Bayliss said. “That’s good to know, but you still have to win those matches when they’re close.”