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Men’s Tennis

Notre Dame takes on Virginia in strong field

| Thursday, February 13, 2014

No. 16 Notre Dame, along with a host of the nation’s top teams, will travel to Houston, Texas this weekend for the ITA National Indoor Championship. The team’s first match will be against No. 1 Virginia on Friday afternoon.

Irish sophomore Alex Lawson hits a shot during Notre Dame's 4-3 win over Kentucky on Feb. 2. Michael Yu

Irish sophomore Alex Lawson hits a shot during Notre Dame’s 4-3 win over Kentucky on Feb. 2.

The Irish (7-1) have faced a number of strong teams already this season, falling only to No. 22 Illinois. The Cavaliers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) will likely be Notre Dame’s most formidable opponents yet, but Irish coach Ryan Sachire said he has confidence in his team.

“[Virginia] is a really good team, as the defending national champions,” Sachire said. “They have a significant number of their players back. We are very familiar with Virginia, our coaching staff knows their coaching staff very well. Obviously they’re a great team. That being said, we also believe in ourselves quite a bit, and we know that when we get going we can beat anyone.”

Coming off of a win Tuesday at Northwestern, Notre Dame will have traveled from South Bend to Evanston to South Bend to Houston in one week. Mental preparation will be a vital part of the preparation with such a short turnaround, Sachire said.

“Our goals are to play our best tennis and more importantly to bring an identity of greatness,” he said. “We’ve really emphasized with our team the process and focusing on what it takes to be the best. More importantly, we’re going to be ourselves and when we get on the court, we’ll exude confidence and show that we’re the greatest team there.”

In addition to developing a tough team mindset, Notre Dame’s experience this season lining up against some highly-ranked teams will give them an edge over their opponents, according to Sachire.

“I really believe that no one in the country has played as many competitive matches as we have,” Sachire said. “It seems like we’ve been in five or six dogfights already this year and for the most part we’ve succeeded. So that’s a big advantage we have over teams that haven’t played in such competitive environments. This group has experienced those moments.”

Leadership will be another contributor to success for the Irish. After the tough loss at Illinois, senior captain Greg Andrews experienced a slight slump, falling in both his singles and doubles matches against Northwestern. However, Sachire expressed complete faith in Andrews and his abilities to overcome the recent adversity.

“I honestly believe that our senior captain Greg Andrews is going to step up and have a great weekend,” Sachire said. “He’s struggled a little bit lately, his team has won some matches when maybe Greg hasn’t, but Greg is one of the very best players in the country and I’m expecting him to get back on track this weekend and play a key role in what we want to do.”

As the last seed in the 16-team tournament, Notre Dame may be considered the underdog, especially up against No. 1 Virginia. Yet Sachire was unfazed and said the Irish have as much a chance as anyone to win.

“Every single team down there, including us, is really good,” Sachire said. “It’s a challenge for everybody to go against that level of competition. But like I said, we have an advantage because of the high-quality teams we’ve already played.”

The Irish will face the Cavaliers at 3 p.m. on Friday with the potential of playing in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the semifinals on Sunday and the finals on Monday.

Contact Renee Griffin at rgriffi6@nd.edu.

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

Contact Renee