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Men’s Tennis: Irish face off against No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats

Andrew Owens | Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fresh off the program’s biggest victory in nearly a decade, the No. 25 Irish hope to carry that momentum into their matches next week at the U.S National Junior Team exhibition match and a critical road trip to Lexington, Ky.

Notre Dame (10-7) defeated No. 6 Illinois, 5-2 Tuesday evening, after failing to put together a complete match against a top opponent earlier in the season.

“It was a big win for us,” Irish associate head coach Ryan Sachire said.

Prior to the match, Sachire identified two key components to winning at the highest level in tennis, and said those factors will determine their success next week as well.

“The first is you have to play well enough to put yourself in position to win,” he said. “And the second is having the mental toughness to finish.”

There is no drop off in the talent of the opponents the Irish will face next week. The team will travel to Boca Raton, Fla. Tuesday for the U.S. National Junior Team exhibition match. The contest will not count toward the team’s overall record, but the Irish still want to continue the strong play they have put forth in recent weeks.

“Our plan is to play the starters,” Sachire said. “We don’t know the format yet — we don’t have to adhere to the typical format. We’ll be taking 11 or 12 guys and want to get them all matches, but if there is a limited number, the starters will play. If we can get everyone to play, we will.”

From Boca Raton, Notre Dame will travel to Kentucky for a Thursday match against the No. 11 Wildcats.

“They’re a really good team,” Sachire said. “They’re at the same level as Texas A&M and Illinois, two teams we’ve seen this season. We just need to play the way we’re capable of playing.”

With the Big East championships now less than two months away, Sachire hopes to see the team play with some consistency the rest of the way.

“The same keys apply the rest of the year,” he said. “We need to perform well at all seven available positions where points are available.”