Kentucky Upsets No. 27 Notre Dame 4-2
LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the second time in three days, University of Kentucky men’s tennis player Alberto Gonzalez clinched the deciding point for UK at the No. 5 singles slot for another upset win. The No. 50 Wildcats defeated the No. 27 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame 4-2 at Boone Tennis Complex Tuesday afternoon.
With UK leading 3-2, Gonzalez cruised through the first set over Notre Dame’s David Anderson 6-2. With the pressure on his opponent, the freshman broke Anderson in game five and then extended his lead to 4-2 in the second set. As both teams cheered from the near court, Gonzalez held serve to secure the victory at 6-4 in the second. It was the second time in two matches Gonzalez clinched the deciding point for Kentucky against a higher-ranked opponent duplicating his effort against Auburn last Sunday.
“It’s the second match in a row that he’s provided the clincher,” UK head coach Dennis Emery said. “This is the second match in a row that he has really come through. With our format on the inside courts, the No. 5 and No. 6 singles matches are always the last ones on. It is unique to college tennis when you have four courts and it’s a lot of pressure.”
The doubles point came down to the wire for the second consecutive match.
At No.1 doubles, junior Bruno Agostinelli and freshman Brad Cox fended off Notre Dame’s Brett Helgeson and Sheeva Parbhu 8-4. The Fighting Irish fought back at the No. 3 slot with an 8-4 victory of their own as Stephen Havens and Tyler Davis beat UK’s Alex Lambropoulos and Marcus Sundh. Those results focused the spotlight on the No. 2 doubles match.
UK freshman Will Beck and junior Shane Collins were up to the task against Fighting Irish Andrew Roth and Santiago Montoya. The Cats used an early service break in game three to extend its lead early, 2-1. After the teams held serve, Collins served for the match at 7-6. With UK leading 40-30, the Irish tied it up to force extra points, but the Cats rallied to win the next two points to secure the victory and the doubles point for UK.
The Cats are now 5-1 this season when clinching the doubles point.
“Our doubles play was great today,” Emery said. “Collins and Beck just played their best match of the year, and they needed to in order to win. We talked a lot lately about players stepping up in these situations. Those guys did that today and were fantastic.”
Kentucky extended its lead to 2-0 after a win at No. 3 singles. Sundh breezed his way through his match against Roth only relinquishing four games, 6-2, 6-2.
Notre Dame earned its first point of the day at No. 4 singles. UK’s Beck jumped out to two-break lead in the first set but could not hold on as Havens fought back to force a tiebreak. Havens won the tiebreak 7-1 to clinch the first set and used the momentum to take the second set 6-3.
Facing his third ranked opponent in three matches, No. 48 Agostinelli gave the Cats another big victory at No. 1 singles over Notre Dame’s Helgeson, ranked 43rd nationally. Things looked grim for the UK junior after losing the first set 6-2 and finding himself down 4-3 in the second. But Agostinelli held serve to tie at 4-all and then broke a visibly frustrated Helgeson to go up 5-4. Next the Niagara Falls, Canada, native held for the second set at 6-4 and then only lost a single game to win the final set convincingly 6-1.
“Bruno’s win was huge,” Emery said. “He has had a great year. This victory really enhances his chance to make the NCAAs as an individual but more importantly really boosts our chances of getting into the NCAA tournament as a team.”
At No. 2 singles, Cox put up a fight against No. 83 Parbhu of Notre Dame. The UK freshman served for the first set at 5-4 but Parbhu broke back to even the set at 5-all. After each held serve, the Fighting Irish won the tiebreaker 7-2. Cox pushed back in the second to lead 4-3 but could not hold on as Parbhu came back to win the final three games for the match win and give the Irish a second point on the day.
Alex Lambropoulos made his season debut in the No. 6 position for the Cats in just his second singles match of the year. The sophomore made good on his debut with a gutsy effort against Notre Dame’s Daniel Stahl. The two battled back and forth in the first set until they were deadlocked at six games. Stahl got the better of Lambropoulos in the tiebreak. Stahl won the first game of set two before the match was suspended after Gonzalez’s victory on court five.
“It’s a great win for us,” Emery said. “Notre Dame has had a very good year. I thought our guys hung in there and competed really well.”
With the win, the Cats improve to 8-9 overall while the Irish fall to 10-6 on the season. No. 27 Notre Dame is the second consecutive higher-ranked opponent that Kentucky has defeated this week. The Wildcats jumped 13 spots in the polls released this afternoon as a result of its win over Auburn Sunday.
Kentucky continues its five-match home stand Thursday when it hosts Murray State at Boone Tennis Complex with first serve at 3:00 p.m. ET.
#50 Kentucky 4, #27 Notre Dame 2