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MENS TENNIS: Bass defeats Parbhu in finals

Kate Gales | Thursday, October 27, 2005

Officially, the season doesn’t start until January. But the Irish are turning heads already.

As a team, Notre Dame posted a 6-1 win in an exhibition match over USC on Oct. 14. As individuals, Stephen Bass and Sheeva Parbhu ended up playing each other in the finals of the Wilson/ITA Midwest Tournament on Oct. 25, where Bass prevailed in a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Irish head coach Bobby Bayliss said. “We’ve had our share of good teams [at Notre Dame], including one that reached the NCAA finals, but we’ve never had two players at the regional. It’s very rare.”

After handily winning the first set, Parbhu dropped the second and had to fight for the third.

“The third, Sheeva got down an early break and was down pretty much the whole set until 5-4, when Sheeva served for the match,” Bayliss said. “Sheeva broke and just picked up a level the last couple of games.”

Parbhu’s loss in the finals put him at 10-1 on the season and snapped an unbeaten streak that dated back to March 17-a span of 17 matches.

Bass fought his way through the main draw, coming back from behind in several matches to win the tournament.

“It’s sort of a similar pattern,” Bayliss said. “He seems to be able to gather his resources at the most critical times, and he never beats himself.”

Bass was forced to come from behind in some of his early matches, but he handily defeated Michigan State’s Nick Rinks to earn a berth in the finals.

“Stephen just kept the ball deep, played very solidly and was aggressive enough to keep Rinks from taking charge and dominating any of the point,” Bayliss said. “Ultimately, the difference was Stephen didn’t make many mistakes, and Rinks did.”

After winning in the finals, Bass is 11-0 on the season. He has six victories against nationally-ranked players.

Parbhu made his route to the top of the tournament look easy.

“Sheeva, on the other hand, pretty much cruised through most of the tournament until the last few rounds,” Bayliss said.

He defeated Ohio State’s top-seeded Devin Mullings to earn his spot against Bass in the finals.

Both players also posted singles wins against USC on Oct. 14.

“As a coach, I was guardedly optimistic about USC, and I thought we played extremely well,” Bayliss said.

Winning the doubles point was key to the match despite Notre Dame’s large margin of victory.

“I thought Brett Helgeson showed a ton of poise when he had to serve out for the doubles point,” Bayliss said. “At No. 3 I was pleasantly surprised the way we dominated, I thought [Andrew] Roth and Bass did a great job.”

The Irish dropped one singles match as Chong Wang upset Eric Langenkamp at No. 4.

“We had started four, five and six earlier and I felt they were pretty strong at No. 4,” Bayliss said. “I thought Eric gave it a great effort.”

Southern California native Patrick Buchanan won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 5.

“Pat Buchanan was absolutely outstanding – he didn’t miss a ball,” Bayliss said.

Ryan Keckley also took a win at No. 6.

“Ryan Keckley fought really well, and after losing a first-set tiebreaker, really played a great second and third set,” Bayliss said. “He was aggressive to the end, didn’t lose his serve in the third set.”

After breaking for doubles, the top three matches in singles followed.

“So we knew we were up 3-1 going into the last three,” Bayliss said. “Brett took care of that awfully fast – he won that match in probably under an hour and was really dominating off the ground.”

After the match was clinched, Parbhu won 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2 and Bass took the No. 1 match at 7-6, 6-4.

“I’m not turning cartwheels or anything, but to play well at home against a quality opponent with a lot of people watching is also good,” Bayliss said.

Bass and Parbhu both earned bids for the second grand slam of the season, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. The tournament will begin Nov. 3 at The Racquet Club of Columbus.

“I think everyone who watched our match with USC had to be impressed with the quality of the play,” Bayliss said.