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MEN’S TENNIS: Irish sweep Rutgers for second straight title

Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, April 25, 2005

In his four years at Notre Dame, Brent D’Amico had never experienced a team loss in the Big East Championship. With another Big East title on the line against Rutgers, the senior co-captain made sure his last Big East Championship would end the way it started – with a win.D’Amico clinched No. 35 Notre Dame’s 4-0 victory over Rutgers (8-9) on Saturday, helping give the Irish their first back-to-back Big East title since the team joined the conference a decade ago. D’Amico posted a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 2 against Rutgers’ Gordi Milchutsky.The victory also gave Notre Dame (18-7) an automatic berth in the NCAA Championship.”We were ahead in all of the matches against Rutgers, but it was especially rewarding to see Brent clinch it,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said. “He did so by coming to the net a little bit more and shortening the points.”After beating fifth-seeded St. John’s to reach the Big East final, the Irish came out strong against the Scarlet Knights. Notre Dame won the doubles point and won three quick singles victories to coast to the Big East title.Rutgers, a third seed in the tournament, upset the second-seed Boston College en route to the final. The Big East Conference has undergone a reshuffling of teams during the past year. The conference lost perennial contenders Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference and will pick up South Florida, Louisville and Marquette next season.The Irish picked up the early 1-0 lead against the Scarlet Knights by posting doubles victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. Sophomores Barry King and Ryan Keckley were off the courts first for the Irish, beating Matthew Fawcett and Jonathan Wanano 8-2 at the No. 2 slot. Sophomore Stephen Bass and freshman Sheeva Parbhu clinched the doubles point for the second day in a row with an 8-2 victory at No. 3.”Doubles [play] was our strength,” Bayliss said. “The chemistry was good, we were aggressive and we didn’t make silly errors. I think that bodes well for the NCAAs.”The team also did not drop any of the singles matches, losing four games or fewer in each match. King was off the courts first for the Irish with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Rutgers’ Fawcett. Junior Patrick Buchanan and D’Amico quickly followed suit, posting 6-1, 6-1 and 6-1, 6-0 victories, respectively, to end the match.This year’s Big East title was the fifth for the Irish since joining the conference 10 years ago. The team also claimed championships in 1996, 1999, 20002 and 2004.Notre Dame now turns its full attention to the NCAA Championship, which takes place May 13-15 at various campus sites. The seedings for the 64-team draw will be announced May 5 on the ESPNEWS network.