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Men’s Tennis: Senior trio gives Irish experience

Deirdre Krasula | Thursday, September 7, 2006

Notre Dame may only be a week into practice, but the team already looks strong.

The Irish return their top five starters for the 2006-07 season – senior captain Stephen Bass, junior Sheeva Parbhu, sophomore Brett Helgeson, senior Ryan Keckley and senior Barry King.

“Our top returning starters look great,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Bayliss said. “We are playing at a high level.”

With a strong showing at the top of the lineup, the team will look to solidify and strengthen the lower spots on the team, Bayliss said. Returning role players, including senior Irackli Akhvlediani, are likely to be strong contenders to improve the bottom of the lineup.

The addition of five freshmen to the Irish is likely to create competition for playing time as well, Bayliss said.

And the addition of assistant coach Ryan Sachire, Bayliss said, has been a spark plug for the team.

Sachire, a 2000 Notre Dame graduate, joins the coaching staff after serving as assistant coach at Baylor University during the 2005-06 season and playing in professional circuits before that.

“The biggest influence [on the team] has been the tremendous and positive impact [Sachire] has had on the team,” Bayliss said. “He has an infectious enthusiasm that has gotten everyone excited.”

The team’s competitive schedule does not begin until the spring, but Bayliss said the Irish will work to establish themselves as a squad recognized as tops in the nation.

Bass and Parbhu, who played at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots over the summer, enter the fall season ranked No. 20 and No. 21 in the country. Parbhu and his doubles partner Keckley enter as the No. 36 doubles pair in the nation. Bass and Helgeson are not far behind, taking the No. 47 doubles spot.

“We have a chance to have a great team this year,” Bayliss said. “We have a great blend of experience, youth, and power at the top of our lineup.”

The combination of players already recognized as some of the best in the country – along with those just beginning their collegiate tennis careers – is likely to aid the Irish on their pursuit for the top.

To improve upon the success the team has already seen, Notre Dame will take part in six weeks of competitive fall play, which kicks off with the Irish-hosted Tom Fallon Invitational on Sept. 22.

The competitive fall season ends with the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in November. Bass and Parbhu advanced to the finals last year and will look to be strong contenders in the tournament again.

The competitive season is only six weeks long, but it will be a busy and intense time for the Irish, Bayliss said. He also hopes the six tournaments in which the team will play will allow the players to work on their individual play while establishing themselves as a team to be reckoned with.