Feb. 29, 2008
Match Details: #12 Notre Dame (9-3) at #13 Illinois (5-4)
Saturday, March 1st, 2008, 6:00 CT
Atkins Tennis Center, Champaign, IL
Notre Dame confident after 7-0 win over Purdue: Notre Dame is coming off one of its most dominating performances of the season, a shutout victory over Purdue that saw the Irish drop only one set. The Irish have used a balance of veterans and newcomers to vault to nine wins in their first twelve contests. Junior Brett Helgeson leads the Irish singles charge with a 22-4 overall mark and a 7-3 dual record. The Irish veteran should be familiar with potential opponent Ryan Rowe of Illinois. The two battled in the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Regional last fall, with Rowe emerging victorious 6-4, 7-5. Helgeson has been ranked as high as 11th in singles this spring, before slipping to 32nd in the most recent poll.
While Helgeson has been anchoring the top of the lineup, freshmen Stephen Havens, David Anderson, and Daniel Stahl have become mainstays at the four, five, and six singles positions. The trio has combined for a 20-12 record this spring, with Stahl leading the way with an 8-2 mark.
Scouting the Illini: Illinois returns four of six starters from last year's second place team. Senior Ryan Rowe leads the Illini charge with a No. 13 national ranking. Rowe has posted a 15-11 singles mark this year, but is just 4-5 in dual matches. The senior has posted two wins in his last three outings including a straight-set win over 19th ranked Clancy Shields of Boise State.
Sophomore Billy Heiser has also been impressive for the Illini this season. Heiser has posted a 14-9 singles mark including 6-3 in dual matches. Heiser has won five of his last six matches including three against ranked opponents, and owns a No. 30 singles ranking. Heiser and Rowe are also ranked 20th as a doubles team. They own an impressive 13-3 mark in paired play and are 6-2 in spring duals.
Illinois has faced stiff competition so far this season. Eight of the Illini's nine matches have come against teams ranked in the top 40. Illinois had No. 1 Virginia on the ropes at home last month, vaulting to a 3-1 lead over the top-ranked Cavaliers. Illinois could not close, however, dropping the final three matches, including two in three sets and one in a third-set tiebreaker. Illinois dropped their last match at No. 14 Florida last weekend by a 6-1 count. The match was much closer than the score indicated as the Gators won a trio of three-set matches at the top three singles positions. The Illini will host conference foe Michigan State Friday evening before taking on the Irish Saturday.
Series against Illinois: Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Illinois 21-18, but the Illini have won eleven of the last thirteen. Last season's 5-2 win over No. 8 Illinois was arguably Notre Dame's best of the season. The win snapped an eight match losing streak to Illinois and marked the first home win over the Illini in ten years.
The two teams should be familiar with each other as they met at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational last fall. The Irish had an impressive showing, earning wins in all six singles matches contested between the two teams. Illinois, meanwhile took two of the three doubles contests.
Parbhu Makes His Mark in the Record Books: By earning both a singles and doubles win last Sunday against Purdue, senior captain Sheeva Parbhu ran his career singes mark to 113-34 and his combined record to 186-86. The 113 singles wins ties him with Mark Schmidt for fifth all time. 186 combined wins moves Parbhu into fourth all-time surpassing Chuck Coleman.
Irish Shake Up Doubles Lineup: Notre Dame shifted its doubles lineup in the win over Purdue. While Parbhu and Helgeson remained the No. 1 team, senior Andrew Roth and Santiago Montoya were paired together for just the second time all year at No. 2. The No. 3 team of Tyler Davis and Stephen Havens were paired together for the first time since the fall. All three teams posted victories over the Boilermakers.
Rankings Update: Notre Dame remained at No.12 in this week's ITA rankings. New singles and doubles rankings are due out next week. Brett Helgeson and Sheeva Parbhu are the only two Irish players with singles rankings, No. 32 and No. 73 respectively. Notre Dame opponents own five of the top ten places in the team rankings. Notre Dame lost to No. 1 Virginia (5-2) and will play No. 2 Ohio State next month. The Irish defeated No. 10 Duke (4-3), but lost to No. 6 UCLA (4-0) and No. 8 North Carolina (5-0) at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.