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Men’s Tennis: Irish post 4-1 record over spring break

Kate Gales | Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Despite a loss in the finals of the Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic, the Irish had a successful spring break, ending with a record of 4-1 to improve to 13-5 overall.

No. 20 Notre Dame topped No. 30 Florida State 4-3 March 14 en route to a crucial road win. They then knocked off William and Mary, Fresno State and Boise State before losing to No. 26 Virginia Commonwealth.

“When you step back from the moment of the loss and the pain and agony that goes with that and look back at what we achieved over the break, I think we have a lot to be proud of,” Irish coach Bobby Bayliss said.

No. 20 Notre Dame 4, No. 30 Florida State 3

Before a raucous Seminole crowd, Eric Langenkamp clinched a win for the Irish as they topped No. 30 Florida State.

The Seminoles recently topped Clemson, then ranked No. 5.

“It shows you the quality of that win,” Bayliss said of his team’s victory.

The Irish lost a hard-fought doubles point as all three pairs fell in close matches.

Brett Helgeson and Andrew Roth, playing at No. 3, lost 8-4 to Sam Chang and Jonathas Sucupira in the first match to finish. The Seminoles clinched the match as Andrew Bailey and Maciek Sykut topped Barry King and Langenkamp 8-6 for the point.

Ryan Keckley and Sheeva Parbhu lost 8-5 at No. 1 to Ytai Abougzir and Chris Westerhof, ranked No. 26 nationally.

But the Irish took four of the six singles matches to pull out the win.

“That was a pretty solid win in fairly hostile territory,” Bayliss said. “I’m very proud of the guys, the match – it was a big match for [Florida State], they had their band out playing during the match and a lot of promotional assistance and they had a big crowd. It was a fun atmosphere in which to play.”

Keckley – one of the most consistent athletes for the Irish this season – tied the score at one with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 109 Sykut. Parbhu, playing at No. 2 and ranked No. 33 nationally – won 7-6, 6-4 over Sucupira.

But the Seminoles tied the score again with wins at No. 3 and No. 1, as Helgeson lost 7-6, 6-4 and Bass fell 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

“The match came down to No. 6 and Eric Langenkamp played a terrific tiebreaker to win the match for us,” Bayliss said.

Langenkamp won 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7-1) for the Irish victory.

“I think the match took a lot out of him physically but he was able to get the job done,” Bayliss said. “Several of our guys played extremely well – Sheeva Parhbu had a great win at No. 2, Ryan Keckley kept his terrific streak alive, Barry King had a big win at four over Chris Westerhof.”

Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic: Runner-Up

The second-seed Irish cruised to a 4-0 victory over William and Mary in the first round with wins at the four, five and six positions, as Keckley, King and Roth all won. Helgeson clinched the match at No. 3, and Bass and Parbhu were leading at the top two positions when the match was abandoned.

Next, the Irish topped Freno State 4-2 to advance in the tournament.

“Then we played Fresno State and had a close 4-2 with them,” Bayliss said. “Stephen Bass deserves a great deal of credit for that match.”

Wins in doubles by Keckley and Parbhu at No. 1 and Langenkamp and Roth at No. 2 put the Irish up 1-0 going into the singles. King won 6-1, 6-2 for a 2-0 lead, but Helgeson fell 6-2, 6-3 as Fresno State battled back. Parbhu won 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2, but Keckley fell 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) in an extremely close straight-set loss.

Bass clinched the match at No. 1 with a win over Jacob Cech.

“That set up a semifinal showdown with Boise State,” Bayliss said. “They won a hotly contested doubles point and took a 1-0 lead.”

Helgeson won 6-4, 6-1 at No. 3 to tie the match, but Parbhu lost at No. 2 to put Boise State on top again. Keckley and King took back-to-back victories to put the Irish up 3-2, but Boise State won at No. 6 to put all the pressure on the No. 1 match.

“We played exceptionally well at No. 2, 3 and 4 to give us three points and then the entire match fell on Stephen’s shoulders at No. 1 singles,” Bayliss said. “Stephen fought off that game, broke serve, and then played a great tiebreaker.”

This gave the Irish a berth in the finals against Virginia Commonwealth (VCU).

“VCU [was] a much older, more experienced team,” Bayliss said. “I’d say the average age is 23, 24 years old. They’re all international players, they didn’t have an American on their team, and they’re all very good.”

Officials decided singles would be played first, as weather forecasts were questionable and calling for rain.

“It was very hard fought – we did have opportunities we didn’t capitalize on,” Bayliss said.

The Irish went up 2-1 with wins by Keckley and Parbhu, but four losses by Buchanan, King, Bass and Helgeson gave the tournament title to VCU.

“That’s a pretty big national event and we felt fortunate to get to the finals,” Bayliss said. “We’d hoped to win it but I think we gave a pretty good accounting for ourselves and we’re ready to go to Texas next weekend.”