Notre Dame tops Gophers, ‘Cats
Henry Hilliard | Sunday, January 26, 2014
The Irish continued their winning ways over the weekend, besting both Minnesota and Kentucky, 4-3, on the road in Lexington, Ky. The upset of the eighth-ranked Wildcats came on the final set of the seventh match, propelling the undefeated Irish to their fifth win of the spring campaign at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament.
“This weekend really established a foundation for this season,” Irish coach Ryan Sachire said. “The coaching staff is very excited about what we saw this weekend.”
Notre Dame had to come from behind against Kentucky, as Irish seniors Ryan Bandy and Matt Dooley lost the first doubles match. The Irish pairings of senior Greg Andrews and sophomore Alex Lawson, ranked 21st in the country, and senior Billy Pecor and freshman Josh Hagar won the remaining doubles matches, which gave the team the lead heading into singles play.
“These 50-50 matches like we saw this weekend against Kentucky and Minnesota and last weekend against Michigan State are awesome. That’s what makes tennis fun because it provides an opportunity to really learn a lot about your team,” Sachire said.
Against Minnesota, however, the Irish doubles teams lost two out of three doubles matches for the first time all season as Andrews and Lawson provided the lone win in the category. In singles play, Bandy, Hagar, junior Wyatt McCoy and freshman Eddy Covalschi all won to secure a Notre Dame victory for the evening.
“This is really a great group of guys,” Sachire said. “At this point, it is about trying to get your fair share of wins to establish an identity. We have been fortunate enough to do that pretty early in our season.”
The match against Kentucky came down to the final set of singles play as Covalschi won the last two games for the Irish in the sixth slot. Bandy and sophomore Eric Schnurrenberger also notched wins for Notre Dame in singles play Saturday night.
Such competitive matches are not unfamiliar territory for Sachire. Though this is his inaugural campaign as head coach, Sachire has been a perennial presence for the Irish for more than 11 years as a former player and assistant coach.
“The way I look at it is that is about we and not one individual player or coach. This is a tough team and I am really excited to be a part of it,” Sachire said.
Notre Dame will hope to replicate its performance down the stretch in a rematch with Kentucky on Feb. 2, this time at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish will then travel to Champaign, Ill., for a match against Illinois.
“We always can play better,” Sachire said. “Kentucky is a top-10 opponent and the goal is to play well enough down the stretch that we have a chance to win in the end, which is what we were able to do this weekend.”
Contact Henry Hilliard at [email protected]