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Men’s Tennis: Irish look for revenge against No. 4 Illinois

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For No. 24 Notre Dame, tonight’s match against No. 4 Illinois provides a critical opportunity to show that it can finish the job against some of the nation’s top talent.

The Irish (9-7) have played one of the nation’s toughest schedules, but at times have faced difficulty in playing consistently and playing well late to defeat top opponents.

“Winning tennis is made of two parts,” Irish associate head coach Ryan Sachire said. “The first part is putting yourself in position and to execute well, and the second part is to finish the job and close out matches.”

If the Irish are to beat the Illini (9-4), they will need to succeed in both areas, something they did not do in a close 4-1 loss to Illinois on Jan. 29.

“The first time we played them, and in last year’s match, we were in a position to win,” Sachire said. “We have to make sure we close it out this time. If we want to win, we must execute.”

In the first contest, played at the Atkins Center in Champaign, Ill., the Irish dropped all five singles matches, all of which went the maximum three sets.

Seniors Stephen Havens and Dan Stahl, freshman Greg Andrews and junior Samuel Keeton all won the first set of their singles match before dropping the last two to give Illinois the victory. The other singles player, junior Casey Watt, came back from a first set loss to win the second. He eventually was defeated in the third set, 6-3.

The match will be the third in five days for the Irish, as they lost 5-2 to No. 18 Texas A&M on Friday before defeating No. 60 Northwestern, 6-1, on Sunday. On the other side, it will be the fourth match in five days for the Illini, who played a doubleheader Friday, as well as a match Sunday.

“We’re ready to go,” Sachire said when asked about any fatigue his team might be experiencing. “No one is overly tired. It’s the fourth match in five days for Illinois, so it will be just as difficult for them.”

Because this match is in the middle of the spring season, Sachire does not expect fatigue to be a factor.

“Both teams will be fine,” he said. “By this time all the teams are conditioned and ready to go.”

The match between the ranked teams will be played tonight at 5 p.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.