MEN’S TENNIS: Irish knock off Wildcats
Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, February 21, 2005
In their last match of the season in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, the Irish closed down their season at home with authority.No. 23 Notre Dame (9-2) posted a 5-2 victory over No. 40 Northwestern (5-4) Friday night. The team overcame an early 1-0 deficit after dropping the doubles point, rolling out to a quick 3-1 lead.Sophomores Irackli Akhvled-iani, Stephen Bass and Barry King all won their singles matches in straight sets to give Notre Dame an early lead in the match. Junior Patrick Buchanan bested Northwestern’s Matt Christian in three sets, 6-2, 4-6 and 6-3, to clinch the match victory for the Irish.”It was particularly rewarding match for Patrick,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “A couple of years ago, in the Eck, we played a similar type of match, and Patrick was the last match on and lost 7-6 in the third to the same team. We had been up 3-1 in that match so it was a special reward for Patrick to have decided the match.”The victory gave Bayliss his 600th career victory and the Irish their third consecutive win at home. Senior captain Brent D’Amico and sophomore Ryan Keckley posted the sole doubles victory for the Irish at the No. 1 slot, but Northwestern clinched the other two matches to gain the upper hand early.”In the doubles, [Northwest-ern] really was very aggressive,” Bayliss said. “I thought their second team played extremely well and as did their third team. I think that was a new combination for them at No. 3, and we weren’t expecting that. “They served well, and we didn’t quite return well enough to negate some of the things they did.”The Irish struck back quickly in the singles matches. Akhvlediani got the Irish on the board with a 6-4, 6-3 victory against Northwestern’s Adam Schaechterle.”Irackli played at an extremely high level,” Bayliss said. “He was able to hit big enough to keep Schaechterle back in the court and open up opportunities to spread the court with shorter, wider balls. It was as good a match as I’ve seen Irackli play in a while.”Bass and King also posted straight-set wins for the Irish. After dropping to a 3-0 deficit in the first set against Chuck Perrin, Bass bounced back strongly, posting a 6-4, 6-2 victory. King, battling a minor back injury, defeated Christian Temple 6-3, 6-0.”[Bass] didn’t start well but he really did not lose his poise,” Bayliss said. “You can’t always play well. I have an expression that ‘you can fake it until you make it.’ You can at least pretend that you’re under control and not let your opponent know that he’s getting to you.”Barry King has a back injury that isn’t serious but was painful that night. Barry fought off a lot of pain at the end and finished off a very good Christian Tempke in a match that seems easy, 6-3 and 6-0, but every point was contested and there were rallies of 10 and 15 balls each point.”Once again, it was Notre Dame’s team depth that allowed the team to fight back and win five of the six singles matches. Freshman Sheeva Parbu outlasted Northwestern’s Willy Lock in a match tiebreaker, winning 6-7, 7-6, 1-0 at the No. 4 slot. D’Amico lost a close singles match 7-6, 7-6 to Tommy Hanus, ranked No. 114 in the country.”I think our depth proved to be a pretty critical factor,” Bayliss said. “That’s bailed us out all year. We match up in the middle and bottom parts of our lineup favorably with any team in the country. The Northwestern coach, Paul Torricelli, told me that we were as solid a team as he had seen from top to bottom, with no apparent holes in our singles lineup.”The Irish must now look ahead to a tough stretch of matches on the road. Notre Dame travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State Tuesday and then faces No. 9 Virginia Sunday in Charlottesville, Va.