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Men’s Tennis: Buckeyes stumble vs. squad

Kate Gales | Monday, February 27, 2006

Despite a lopsided loss in doubles, the Irish rebounded to saddle Ohio State with its first loss this season in a 5-2 match at the Eck Tennis Pavilion Friday.

Before an enthusiastic home crowd, the No. 26 Irish reeled off four straight singles wins at Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6 to clinch the match over the No. 11 Buckeyes.

“I’m really excited about beating a team this good,” head coach Bobby Bayliss said. “And the thing that is especially gratifying is the number of tough matches we had to play.”

The Buckeyes came into the match 9-0 after an upset of then-Top 10 LSU. The team was 3-0 against Top 20 teams, while the Irish were 0-4.

“I felt that we were playing at a high enough level to beat teams in the Top 10, and we just didn’t get it done, and that the wins would come,” Bayliss said. “We had to stick to our guns and keep doing what we’re doing. It wasn’t a case of the level being inadequate, it was a case of winning a close match. And we did.”

The match outcome looked bleak after the doubles point, when the Irish (8-4) were swept by Ohio State.

“That’s about as badly as we can play,” Bayliss said. “There was no energy, and they just took it to us. I’m glad [Ohio State] didn’t charge us for the lesson.”

In the top spot, Ryan Keckley and Barry King fell first in an 8-2 decision to Scott Green and Ross Wilson. Green and Wilson hold the nation’s No. 1 doubles ranking, while Keckley and King weigh in at No. 51.

Eric Langenkamp and Sheeva Parbhu also lost 8-2 in the No. 2 spot, as Ohio State’s Drew Eberly and Bryan Koniecko clinched the point for the Buckeyes.

Brett Helgeson and Andrew Roth fought to avoid the sweep at No. 3, but ultimately fell 8-6.

“I had a few comments for them that weren’t very flattering,” Bayliss said of his team’s break inbetween doubles and singles. “I think they realized it was put up or shut up.”

No. 17 Stephen Bass was the first to put up a win in singles, tying the match at 1-1 by defeating No. 42 Devin Mullings in No. 1 singles. Bayliss called his 6-2, 6-3 victory a “signature win” for the junior, who has now won six straight matches and 13 in a row at home.

“Stephen Bass deserves a ton of credit,” Bayliss said. “Mullings is a tough little street fighter and Stephen just out-toughed him.”

Helgeson, who stands at No. 60 in the national rankings, was next off with a 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 3. The win was more impressive because the freshman – who is 11-0 at home – was still recovering from illness.

When Langenkamp won 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6, the Irish were one match away from clinching the win.

“Eric did an amazing job at not making many mistakes, but also being willing to step up in the court and take advantage of short balls,” associate head coach Todd Doebler said. “Our team got a lot of momentum because he was able to get off the court.”

Sophomore Parbhu would clinch the match before raucous fans in a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 2 singles.

The crowd had gravitated towards Parbhu and Keckley, both playing their third sets on adjacent courts in the Eck Pavilion.

“[Parbhu] got a little tight once he knew the match was on the line, but he got more aggressive and regained his composure,” Doebler said.

The crowd remained to see Keckley, one of the team’s most consistent wins in singles, post a win over Chris Klingemann 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I think the pressures off [after the match is clinched] but its harder to play because all the guys fight so hard for the team,” Doebler said. “Ryan still wanted to close out that match, just because in the past we’ve had some really tough matches with Ohio State.”

Keckley played at No. 4 for the first time with all the starters in the Irish lineup.

“[It was] a big step moving him up to four,” Bayliss said. “But, he’s got a 10-1 record.”

The Eck drew a strong crowd from both local residents and students, as this was the tennis team’s designated Gold Game.

“It’s nice to see that our guys can respond to the support we got,” Bayliss said.

The Irish return to action March 3 as the team travels to the Pacific Coast Doubles Tournament in La Jolla, Ca.