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ND Men’s Tennis: Team captures title on road

Deirdre Krasula | Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Notre Dame’s win Sunday over No. 14 Alabama marked the third championship title for the Irish in the Blue/Gray Classic since 1993. “I’m really proud of our guys – they played at a very high level over the weekend,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said. “They did a terrific job of making the transition outdoors.”Heading down to Montgomery, Ala., provided Notre Dame with the opportunity to prepare for the rest of its outdoor season. Before the Blue/Gray Classic, the Irish had played a majority of their matches indoors.Notre Dame adjusted to the differences of playing outside, but the team still faced challenges, especially in doubles play.The Irish struggled with doubles in their 4-1 win over No. 26 Tulsa Saturday in the semifinals. Notre Dame lost at both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles to fall behind by one. The No. 13 doubles team of Ryan Keckley and Sheeva Parbhu dropped its match 8-2 at No. 1 doubles to Tulsa’s Arnau Brugues and Federico Soriano. Diego Camacho and Ross Cunningham clinched the doubles point for Tulsa as they cruised past Barry King and Brett Helgeson 8-3 at No. 2 doubles. But after falling behind in doubles, the Irish rallied and never looked back.No. 57 Parbhu evened the score by defeating Frederico Soriano 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Helgeson was not far behind as he took the 7-6, 6-3 win over Ricardo Soriano at No. 3 singles for the go-ahead point. No. 12 Stephen Bass dropped the opening set to No. 5 Brugues, 6-3, at No. 1 singles, but he quickly rallied to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and give Notre Dame the 3-1 lead. “[Bass] by nature has been a counter-puncher, and he has slowly added some firepower to his game,” Bayliss said. “This was a match in which he really needed to be aggressive and he did just that.”King defeated Will Gray 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to secure Notre Dame’s place in the finals. The Irish struggled again in doubles play against Alabama in the finals Sunday. Keckley and Parbhu dropped their No. 1 singles match 8-2 to Alabama’s Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau. The Tide clinched the doubles point when Javier Bes and Sammy Struyf defeated Andrew Roth and Bass 8-4 at No. 3 doubles.Bayliss said the team likely struggled at doubles since it had to adjust to outdoor courts.”In moving outside our guys have been a little more vulnerable around the net and it’s something that we have got to deal with,” he said. Despite dropping the doubles point for the second day in a row, the Irish were not fazed. Bass defeated Struyf 6-2, 6-2 and Helgeson defeated Billy Mertz 6-0, 6-0. King defeated Bes 6-3, 6-3 and Roth defeated Dan Buikema 6-2, 6-1 to secure Notre Dame’s championship title. Even though the Irish won the Blue/Gray classic, Bayliss said the team hopes to continue to improve in the weeks ahead. Notre Dame faces an onset of matches against high-ranked opponents like Ohio State and Illinois, and Bayliss said he would like to see a more well-rounded team by then.”We have to focus on becoming better in all positions,” he said. “We can’t just maintain what we’ve done – we need to really improve our skills.”