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Men’s Tennis: Team falls to Cards in conference finals

Kate Gales | Monday, April 24, 2006

Despite not giving up a match en route to the championship, top-seeded Notre Dame fell to Louisville 4-1 in the Big East tournament Sunday.

“It was, to me, a crushing disappointment,” Bayliss said. “If you look at the scores, we were in positions to win many of the matches and collectively just didn’t give it done.”

Notre Dame topped Georgetown Friday and host South Florida Saturday. The Irish – who lost to Louisville in the NCAA tournament last year – beat the Cardinals on April 12, but could not reprise the victory in the conference finals.

“[Louisville] played with a lot of passion, and they have a very senior dominated team,” Bayliss said. “They turned around some matches we had won last week, we played the same players, and we had some leads we didn’t turn into wins.”

In their regular-season showdown, Notre Dame took the doubles by upsetting two nationally-ranked teams on Louisville.

But it was a different story Sunday when Ryan Keckley and Eric Langenkamp – ranked No. 25 nationally – lost 8-4 at No. 1 doubles, and Barry King and Sheeva Parbhu lost by the same score. Brett Helgeson and Andrew Roth trailed 7-4 when the point was clinched, and the match was abandoned.

The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead when Nicolas Houard beat Eric Langenkamp 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. But Helgeson put the Irish on the board with a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles.

It would be the last point for the Irish in the tournament, as Sheeva Parbhu lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) to Jakob Gustafsson.

The final point went to Slavko Radman, the No. 1 singles player for the Cardinals, who beat Stephen Bass 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 for the win. Radman is No. 53 in the national rankings, while Bass stands at No. 18.

Notre Dame 4, USF 0

The Irish easily beat tournament host and fifth-seeded South Florida Saturday to earn a berth in the conference tournament finals.

“They were a little more problematic [than Georgetown, the first-round matchup] because they have an older group of international players who were very experienced, and they provided a pretty stiff challenge,” Bayliss said. “But I think we played very well, and I think we only lost one set in singles.”

Notre Dame swept the doubles matches to take the point, with wins by Helgeson and Roth at No. 3 and a clinching victory by King and Parbhu at No. 2, both by scores of 8-5.

At No. 1, Keckley and Langenkamp led 6-4 before their match was abandoned.

In singles, Langenkamp won 6-1, 6-0 at No. 6 and Helgeson had a 6-1, 5-2 win after his opponent retired. Keckley clinched the match with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 to clinch the win for the Irish. Bass was trailing in the second set at No. 1, but Parbhu and King both led at No. 2 and 5, respectively.

“I was pretty pleased with that effort, with the team,” Bayliss said. “I think we were better, but sometimes you’re better and you don’t play like it, and I think we established control early and stayed there the whole match.”

Notre Dame 4, Georgetown 0

In the quarterfinals against eighth-seeded Georgetown, the Irish had no problems overwhelming the Hoyas.

“Georgetown was not a difficult match in that we’ve played a much more challenging schedule, and we’re just definitely better in every position, and the scores reflected that,” Bayliss said.

In doubles, King and Parbhu won 8-4 at No. 2, and Keckley and Langenkamp clinched the point with a 9-7 win at No. 1. Helgeson and Roth led 7-3 at No. 3 before the match was abandoned.

“I felt the doubles, I felt we did not play well in doubles, but well enough to win all the matches, and in singles we were absolutely in control of every single match,” Bayliss said. “It was over quickly.”

In singles, Parbhu put Notre Dame up 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 2. Keckley won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4 and Bass clinched the win 6-1, 6-0 at No. 1.

Helgeson, King and Langenkamp led before the match was abandoned.

The NCAA tournament begins May 12 at various campus sites. The field will be announced May 3.

The Irish will have a much-needed rest before returning to prepare for the rest of the postseason.

“We’ll definitely take tomorrow off – they’re pretty beaten up right now,” Bayliss said. “We’ll bounce back. The next time, hopefully we’re in this situation – maybe in the NCAA tournament – we’ll win those matches when they’re close.

“But we’ve won our share of close matches this year … they just didn’t fall our way today. Louisville played with a little more courage, a little more conviction when it mattered.”