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Men’s Tennis: Early lead squashes rivals

Megan Finneran | Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The No. 29 Irish immediately secured  momentum against No. 17 Illinois and maintained it throughout the evening to come out on top with a 4-1 win at home. Thanks to a strong start in doubles play and a string of triumphs in singles play, Notre Dame secured the match even before two singles courts had concluded play.

“Playing at home always helps,” No. 102 senior Blas Moros said. “You’re used to your own courts, the speed, the crowd, and those little things add up and make a big difference.”

Notre Dame (8-5) entered the match looking to start with the strong step it has so often lacked this season, and it did just that. Junior Matt Dooley and freshman Quentin Monaghan showed no signs of hesitation on the No. 3 doubles court, taking down Illini senior Bruno Abdelnour and freshman Jared Hiltzik 8-4. Freshman Alex Lawson and junior Billy Pecor followed suit, sealing the first point of the Illini senior Bruno Abdelnour and freshman Jared Hiltzik 8-4. Freshman Alex Lawson and junior Billy Pecor followed suit, sealing the first point of the match when they took down the Illini duo of sophomore Farris Gosea and freshman Alex Jesse 8-5.

“The doubles point is always huge,” Moros said. “It may only be one point but it’s very important for momentum.”

Illinois answered by winning a point of its own in singles play when No. 38 Kiltzik took down Notre Dame’s No. 97 Greg Andrews 6-4, 6-4, but that was the only point the Illini earned.

From there, the Irish regained control. Senior Michael Moore came through on the No. 6 court, winning 6-4, 6-3 against Abelnour. Sophomore Wyatt McCoy followed in his footsteps with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Gosea in the No. 5 slot.

With the Irish up 3-1, the two-set sets ended. The remaining three courts went to three sets apiece, alternating the lead on each.

Pecor was the first to pull out with an individual win, securing the overall Notre Dame win by increasing the score to 4-1. He came from behind in  a one-set deficit to overcome No. 118 sophomore Ross Guignon 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 on the No. 4 court.

Moros held a prolonged battle with No. 113 sophomore Tim Kopinski on the No. 3 court. Moros took the first set 6-4 before losing the second set 5-7 to carry the match to another round, but play was stopped when Pecor’s match ended.

Monaghan, like Pecor, started from behind on the No. 2 court. Illinois’ senior Stephen Hoh took the first set by one point before Monaghan took a powerful turn in the second. Pecor’s win also kept Monaghan from needing to conclude the final set.

“I think it will be great for us going forward into spring break [with] a lot of motivation and high spirits,” Moros said.

The Irish return to play March 15 in Montgomery, Ala., for the Blue Gray Tennis Classic.

Contact Megan Finneran at mfinnera@nd.edu