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Men’s Tennis: Irish compete at ITA���qualifying match

Andrew Owens | Friday, January 28, 2011

The first major step toward another successful season for the Irish comes this weekend as the team travels to Champaign, Ill., in a meet that features Oklahoma, Denver and Illinois.

Rewarding success, the NCAA grants the top 15 teams from the previous season the ability to host an event that qualifies a team for the Indoor Championships. Although Illinois finished No. 16 in the final ITA rankings last season, the squad was ranked within the top 15 for the majority of the season, and will be hosting the Indoor Championships this weekend.

On Day 1, the Irish will face Oklahoma, and Illinois will take on Denver. The two winners will compete for a berth in the title match on Saturday.

In order for Notre Dame to qualify for a berth at the event this weekend, it will need to take down some of the toughest competition in the country. Irish associate coach Ryan Sachire is aware of the quality of the teams, but says Notre Dame will be up for the challenge.

“Oklahoma went to the Elite Eight last year and is a bona fide top-20 team,” Sachire said. “If we win, we play Illinois or Denver, two teams that made the tournament last year. And as recently as 2007, Illinois was a finalist.”

Only 16 teams reach the ITA Championships, which will be played from Feb. 18 to 20 this season.

The Irish had the opportunity to choose the qualifying location where they would play, and ultimately decided on Illinois.

“We picked this site because it is close to home and we have an opportunity to win two matches and move on against pretty strong competition,” Sachire said.

The spring season is split into two parts, with the indoor season making up the first half.

“The entire part of the season from when we started on Jan. 11 until spring break will be indoors,” Sachire said.

Once the indoor part of the season is completed, the focus shifts to conference tournaments and eventually the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame has won several Big East Championships since joining the conference and is no stranger to the NCAA tournament.

The match against Oklahoma will be played Friday at 3 p.m.