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Team reaches milestone by beating Ball State

Jay Wade | Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No. 6 Notre Dame shook off the cobwebs after its match Saturday at Southern Methodist was cancelled due to weather, by defeating Ball State 7-0 in dominant fashion Tuesday.

Ball State (8-11) has now lost to the Irish 17 consecutive times.

With the victory, the Irish (20-3) gained their first 20-win season since their 2001-2002 campaign, and the 14th in program history. Also, along with the victory, No. 9 Stephen Bass (29-9, 18-3) moved to fifth on Notre Dame’s all-time win list when he defeated Joe Epkey 6-2, 6-2. No. 51 Sheeva Parbhu (26-10, 16-4), who deafeated Aaron Phillips 6-0, 6-1, also jumped a place on the all-time list to reach the 10th spot.

“They both have made major impacts in Notre Dame tennis, and the thing about both of them is the amount of improvement that each has made after coming to college,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

Rounding out the rest of the singles victories were No. 114 Brett Helgeson, Barry King, Ryan Keckley and Andrew Roth. Roth blanked his opponent Joe Vallee 6-0, 6-0.

In doubles, it was much the same with Keckley and Bass defeating Epkey and Perdomo 9-7, Parbhu and Helgeson defeating Phillips and Jorge Rodriguez 9-8 (5), and Bass and Roth defeating Epkey and Vallee 8-4. The win from the Parbhu and Helgeson duo was especially impressive, as it was the first time the two had played doubles together during the 2006-07 season.

“I thought a number of guys came out of the box quickly in singles and did a good job of getting momentum and winning matches in a timely fashion to take pressure off of the other guys. Both [Bass and Parbhu] did a good job of playing up on the baseline and keeping the ball deep and moving their opponent around,” Bayliss said about their win.

The experience for the team, however, was just as important as the win according to Bayliss, as the Irish are quickly approaching tournament time.

“It was very good for us to get a win and it was very good of us to get the match experience,” Bayliss said.

The next match for the Irish will be at home against Kentucky this afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Kentucky(13-12, 3-7 in the SEC) has a very deceptive record. The Wildcats have one of the nation’s toughest schedules, having played five top-10 opponents, with Notre Dame making six. They have not just played tough competition, they have also come out victorious. They beat now No. 15 Alabama earlier in the season 4-3 and recently defeated South Carolina 4-2 over the weekend.

“They are obviously an SEC team so we expect a tough match. We played them frequently in the past so we are excited to renew the rivalry we had,” Bayliss said.

The Irish are unblemished so far this season at home with an 8-0 record. This is bad news for the Wildcats, who have struggled on the road to the tune of a 1-7 record.

The key for an Irish victory should be strong play at the top singles positions where the Irish boast three ranked players at the top of their roster.

“I think that if we can get wins in the top half of their lineup we’ll have a good chance because that’s where they seem to be strongest. Starting off with some wins up high will really help us,” Bayliss said.

He also added that their No. 1 singles player, No. 90 Bruno Agostinelli (19-5), has a strong backhand and could potentially cause problems for Bass if he was not careful. Also, their other top players – Marcus Sundh and Peter Bjork – who both boast team best 4-4 records in the brutal SEC, can be very dangerous.

The Irish need to make good use of their match opportunities; the match against Kentucky is their second to last before starting the Big East tournament and then moving on to the NCAA team and singles/doubles tournaments. With so little time left to prepare and gain match experience, matches like these are precious for the Irish.

“At this time of year, you need to play as many matches as you can get,” Bayliss said.