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Men’s Tennis: Irish focus on underclassmen

By Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, August 27, 2013

After a year of stability and success, Notre Dame enters the season with new challenges and questions to be addressed.

For the first time in 26 years, the Irish have a new head coach, as Ryan Sachire took over for the now-retired Bobby Bayliss on June 1. Sachire is no stranger to the Irish program, however, as he graduated from Notre Dame in 2000 and served as an assistant under Bayliss for the last seven seasons.

“It’s obviously humbling, and I’m honored to have that title next to my name,” Sachire said of his new position. “Honestly, I’m not approaching [the season] any differently than I have in years past. I’ve always been fully invested in Notre Dame tennis, whether as a player or as an assistant coach, so from that perspective, I don’t see a huge change.”

After nine conference titles during its 18-year run in the Big East, Notre Dame will join a talented field of teams in the ACC. The conference features nine teams that ended last season ranked in the ITA National Rankings, including defending NCAA champion Virginia.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that in the Big East, we did not play a mandatory league schedule, so we really didn’t compete a lot in April just because other teams were involved with their conference schedules,” Sachire said. “We’ll have to know how to continue to get better and continue to have the same energy level at the end of the year, which is going to be especially difficult because we’re going to be traveling a lot for our ACC matches.”

The Irish will also look to replace No. 3 singles player Blas Moros, as well as lineup mainstays Michael Moore and Spencer Talmadge.

Despite the off-season changes, Notre Dame returns many of the contributors who helped the team to a Big East conference crown and NCAA tournament appearance last season.

Senior Greg Andrews, a two-time Big East Player of the Year, will anchor the team at No. 1 singles for the second consecutive season. Andrews advanced to the round of 32 at last season’s NCAA Singles Championship.

“There is something different about playing No. 1 for your team, and [Andrews] has that year of experience there,” Sachire said. “Any time you return your No. 1 player, you feel good that you have someone who’s accustomed to playing each opponent’s best player. He’s certainly a guy we’re going to look toward and build our team around.”

Notre Dame will also look for increased contributions from its five sophomores, nicknamed the “Fab Five.” The group made an immediate impact in its first season, as No. 2 singles player Quentin Monaghan was named Big East Freshman of the Year and several other members cracked the starting lineup.

“Honestly, I just want them to keep improving and to keep making progress,” Sachire said of the sophomores. “As far as performance goals to put on them, that’s not anything we really talk about. We talk more about the process and as long as they stay on the same path they’re on now, they’re going to do some great things for us.”

The fall season for the Irish will largely consist of individual tournaments instead of team matches. Sachire said that while the fall tournaments don’t contribute to the team’s record, they are nonetheless important in helping the team prepare for the spring season.

“There’s no team score kept at any of these events, but there is a team concept. You have team pride on the line and team preparation and team travel, so there are a lot of concepts that we obviously need to be good at in the spring,” Sachire said. “At the same time, all of the results are individual results, so we’re looking to build an intelligent plan for where the players are in their development.”

Notre Dame begins its season with the Olympia Fields Country Club Invitational in Olympia Fields, Ill., on Sept. 13.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]