MEN’S TENNIS: Irish hobbled by injuries in 5-2 loss
Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, April 4, 2005
Freak injuries lurk in any sports contest, biding their time and striking at inopportune moments. This weekend, the Irish saw the injury bug rear its ugly head.Facing a rallying, motivated Southern Methodist team, the Irish men’s tennis team struggled on Sunday, losing a 5-2 match to the No. 46 Mustangs (11-9). No. 29 Notre Dame (15-6) dropped all but one singles match as they found themselves battling minor injuries to several players.”I think we learned that you’ve got to bring it every day,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “I think SMU played probably their best match of the year – that’s what their coach told me and I have no reason to doubt it. It was close enough but we got outfought in a couple matches. If anything, we need to be more aggressive. We have to look for offensive opportunities a little bit more and in at least three or four of the matches, that was the case.”Despite getting the early 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point, the Irish had trouble against an aggressive SMU team that attacked across the board in each singles match. But in the first match of doubles play, both senior captain Brent D’Amico and junior Eric Langenkamp were hobbled by injuries and the Irish’s No. 1 duo dropped an 8-4 decision. “SMU played really well,” Bayliss said. “Brent D’Amico has been a little iffy all week with a hamstring [injury]. He played doubles but late in the doubles match, it tightened up on him. Eric had a groin pull and Brent had a hamstring injury, so neither of them was available for singles play.”Sophomore Ryan Keckley stepped in for the Irish in singles play but faced some injury problems of his own. Although he won the first set, Keckley struggled with severe cramps in the second set and dropped both of the last two sets in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision.The sole Irish singles victory came from freshman Sheeva Parbhu, who won a three-set match with scores of 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 against SMU’s Federico Murgier. “[Parbhu] continues to show an awful lot of poise for a freshman,” Bayliss said. “He won the first, lost the second and won the third. Murgier was very solid off the ground but Sheeva was a little more aggressive. He was able to dictate and had the guts to step up and hit some big shots late in the third.”The other singles matches went poorly for the Irish, as the team faced the added pressure of playing at higher spots across the board. Playing at the No. 1 singles slot, sophomore Stephen Bass lost a 6-2, 6-3 decision to SMU’s Paul McNaughton. Sophomore Irackli Akhvlediani and junior Patrick Buchanan also dropped quick decisions to SMU players, losing 6-3, 6-4 and 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 4 and No. 5 slots, respectively. Playing at the No. 2 position, sophomore Barry King lost a close match to Gwinyai Chingoka, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.”Barry King played a courageous match but lost 7-6 in the third set,” Bayliss said. “Chingoka was relentless in his ability to make Barry hit passing shot after passing shot. That’s a tough way to win a match because you really have to play twice as good as the other guy. Barry played as hard as he could play and very courageously but just didn’t have the confidence to come to the net, which was the difference in the match.”The lone bright spot for the Irish was their doubles play in the second and third doubles matches, which were both solid victories. After shuffling their doubles lineup at the end of March, the Irish are seeing some dividends with the new combinations. Keckley and King beat SMU’s Peter Oredsson and Henrik Soderberg 8-5 at the No. 2 doubles position and Bass and Parbhu beat the duo of Chingoka and David Kuczer 8-4 in the third slot.”It was a big win for third doubles because SMU has fairly solid doubles [teams],” Bayliss said. “They don’t give away any free points by loading up at the No. 1 or No. 2 spots. They have balanced and solid teams. I think that the fact that we were able to win a match at No. 3 was a real plus and hopefully it’s something we can build upon.”With almost a week until their next match, the Irish will rest up before facing Ball State at home next Saturday at 1 p.m.