No. 3 Illini pull together, top No. 26 Notre Dame

Josh Birnbaum

Josh Birnbaum

By Amber Greviskes

Illinois jumped out to an early lead Wednesday night before shutting out Notre Dame at the Atkins Tennis Center.

“Tonight was a good night from a result standpoint,” said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer.

Illinois sophomores Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe clinched the doubles point for the Illini after the other two tandems split their results.

Anderson and Rowe topped Notre Dame juniors Barry King and Ryan Keckley 8-3 after the Irish tandem upset the No. 1 doubles team in the nation in last week’s outing against North Carolina. King is returning from studying abroad last semester in Dublin, Ireland.

“Ryan and I are playing better,” Anderson said. “From our first match we are definitely improving, so it’s exciting.”

Illinois used the momentum it gained from securing the doubles point to win four of the six singles matches in straight sets.

One of the more impressive matches was Illinois sophomore Ruben Gonzales’ victory over Brett Helgenson that clinched the match. Gonzales won 6-2, 6-3. Earlier this season, Gonzales considered his singles performances disappointing. Dancer was pleased with Gonzales’ performance.

“Winning and losing wasn’t really the issue with me,” Gonzales said. “It was more just playing the right game and executing what I’ve been working on.”

Although Gonzales’ match clinched the victory for the Illini, Anderson picked up a tough win over Notre Dame junior Stephen Bass as well. Bass is the eighth-ranked tennis player in the country. Anderson is tied for 37th.

“(Gonzales) had finished it, but I still wanted to focus and get my job done,” Anderson said. “I played a good last two games.”

Only seniors Ryler DeHeart and Pramod Dabir needed three sets to win. DeHeart played a complete third set against 14th-ranked Sheeva Parbhu, while Dabir won in a 10-point tiebreaker over Eric Langenkamp.

“I didn’t have a really great start, but I got it together a little bit,” Dabir said. “It was good to pull that match out.”

Dabir said his match experience was crucial to the outcome.

“I know that I am a fighter,” Dabir said. “I am someone that can get back into the matches after losing the first set.”