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Men’s Tennis: Irish face non-conference

Andrew Owens | Friday, April 1, 2011

With the regular season slate winding down, each match takes on added importance for the Irish, who will play three solid opponents in a span of two days this weekend.

No. 23 Notre Dame (12-8) will take on three non-conference opponents this weekend — Ball State (8-7), SMU (13-5) and IUPUI (15-11).

“Ball State and IUPUI are two teams from less major conferences not in a position to get an at-large bid,” Irish associate head coach Ryan Sachire said. “But they are threats to win their conference and make it to the NCAA tournament.”

SMU, one of the more talented teams in the country, will enter Sunday’s contest with some added rest after Tuesday’s scheduled match against San Diego State was cancelled. Ball State dropped its last decision against Portland, while IUPUI defeated South Dakota State in its last match.

“All three are quality teams,” Sachire said. “SMU is one of the top 50 or so teams in the country.”

Notre Dame, meanwhile, has been playing some of its best tennis lately, winning four of its last five, including a win over Illinois, a top-10 program.

“We’re in high spirits after our wins,” Sachire said. “It would be great to go 3-0 this weekend.”

After this weekend, the Irish will have only two matches remaining during the regular season, despite the Big East championships being four weeks away. As Sachire noted, the extra time will give Notre Dame a chance to shift their focus.

“The way the schedule is built, we’ve played a lot of matches,” Sachire said. “After this, we will focus on player development. When you compete a lot, you lose some sharpness because you’re focusing on competition and not on skill development. We’ll have a chance to train and practice and improve our skills.”

The next Irish match will not take place until April 13, nearly two weeks away, when Notre Dame travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State.

The Irish will face Ball State in Muncie, Ind. at 2 p.m. Saturday and travel home to play SMU and IUPUI Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.