Irish to host top ranked Ohio State over weekend
Renee Griffin | Friday, February 21, 2014
The No. 10 Irish will face No.1 Ohio State and Ball State this Saturday on their home court.Notre Dame (9-2, 0-1 ACC) has great respect for the Buckeyes (13-0), Irish coach Ryan Sachire said, but will not be intimidated by their spotless record.
“Obviously Ohio State is undefeated on the year,” Sachire said. “They just won the National Indoor Championships [on Monday]. They’ve been a great team for a little over a decade, but we’re a pretty good team, too, so it should be fun to watch two great teams going at it.”
Though Ball State (4-1) will be one of Notre Dame’s few recent opponents who is not in the ITA top 25, Sachire said the Irish will be ready to face a good team in the Cardinals.
“Ball State is a very competitive team, as well,” Sachire said. “Phil Richards has been their coach for a very long time and does a very good job. They’ve got their best player from last year back so it should be a good match.”
After losing to then-No.1 Virginia at the ITA National Indoor Championships on Feb. 14 by a score of 4-2, this will be the second consecutive week where Notre Dame faces the top team in the country. Ohio State won its top ranking by defeating the Cavaliers on Sunday, so Sachire said his team will have to make some adjustments to pull off the upset.
“What we’re going to have to do is just execute at crunch time,” Sachire said. “We were in a position to beat Virginia. The thing about great teams like Virginia and Ohio State is they don’t give you many opportunities, so you have to be able to take advantage of them when they come. That’s what we didn’t do against Virginia, but hopefully we’ll be able to do it this week.”
The Irish certainly have extensive experience against high-quality competition, playing seven teams that were ranked in the top 30 at the time of the match. Notre Dame has on its resume wins at the National Indoor Championships last weekend over No. 9 Mississippi State and No. 12 Florida.
“I think the biggest thing that we gained last weekend in Houston was confidence, the idea that we can consistently beat great teams,” Sachire said. “When you have four wins over top-15 teams, which we do this year, you really start to believe that you can beat anyone.”
Ohio State is neither the first nor the last challenge the Irish will face this season, but Sachire said the tough schedule is more of a positive than a negative.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Sachire said. “We play Virginia and USC in the coming weeks. We all came to Notre Dame to play against the absolute best competition, because it’s our belief that that’s how you get to be the best. We look at everything we do as an opportunity for success. These are very, very challenging opponents we’re playing against, but that’s what makes it fun.”
Notre Dame is undefeated at home this season but has only hosted four home matches while traveling for most of its contests. Sachire says the team is excited to be back.
“We’re hoping to get a great crowd,” Sachire said. “Our guys feel very comfortable playing at home. This is, I think, our first home match since very early February so it should be nice for us to be on our own courts.”
Senior captain Greg Andrews earned distinction as the co-ACC Player of the Week after his performance at the National Indoor Championships. His play has been a contributor to the strong Irish start, but Sachire said it will be a team effort this weekend as always.
“There are nine matches being played, six singles and three doubles,” he said. “All nine count the same. We talk to our guys everyday about being able to play in all nine spots. Nobody plays a lesser role than anyone else. When they get their chances to win, to take advantage of their opportunities, they’ll do it. We keep a purely team perspective, and everyone’s role is just as important as the next guy’s.”
Notre Dame will take on the Buckeyes at 12 p.m. Saturday, followed by a match against Ball State at 7 p.m.
Contact Renee Griffin at [email protected]