Irish hit the road to face Wildcats
Renee Griffin | Thursday, January 23, 2014
Notre Dame will play in its first away contests of the spring season this weekend at Kentucky, with the potential to stretch its undefeated start to five matches. If the Irish do so, they could qualify for the ITA National Indoor Championships on Feb. 14-17.
The Irish (3-0) will first face Minnesota on Friday night before playing either No. 8 Kentucky or BYU on Saturday. Irish coach Ryan Sachire said he anticipates two quality matches.
“All four teams that are going to Kentucky are very good,” Sachire said. “All four made the NCAA tournament last year, and that’s not uncommon for them. You’re looking at, traditionally, four of the top 40 teams in the country and they all expect to have another great season. We’re prepared to have two extremely tough matches.”
The Irish will try to maintain momentum from last weekend, when they beat William and Mary, Michigan State, and Toledo. The team got off to a fast start in all three of the matches, dropping only two decisions to Michigan State while shutting out the other opponents.
“I think one thing we did a good job of, in most circumstances, was starting off strong in our doubles matches,” Sachire said. “The matches go very, very quickly with not a lot of time to adjust, so it’s imperative to do the things we want to do right away.”
Minnesota (0-1) enters the event with only one match under its belt for the spring season, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State. Both BYU (4-0) and Kentucky (4-0) have experienced considerably more success in more opportunities this season. The Wildcats have a marquee win over then-No. 7 Duke on their résumé, as well. The weekend’s schedule may make the matches tougher for the Irish, Sachire said, as it is their first time traveling and their first time playing on consecutive days.
“It’s the first time on the road, the first time out of our building,” Sachire said. “It’ll be a neutral site against Minnesota, but it’s always a little adjustment. Being able to play on a consistently high level on back-to-back days will be tough, but we’ll focus on doing what we do and we’ll have plenty of time to practice on the Kentucky courts.”
Sachire said he has particular faith in the team leaders, most notably senior Greg Andrews, who is ranked No. 22 in the country. Irish sophomore Quentin Monaghan, ranked 90th in the country, did not participate last weekend due to injury but may make his return against the Gophers.
“We’re definitely hoping to get Quentin Monaghan back,” Sachire said. “He’s the second-best player on the team. It starts at the top with our captain Greg Andrews. He’s done an amazing job this year and at the end of last year of leading by example. When you have such a great leader, everything flows from there.”
Notre Dame will face off against Minnesota on Friday and either Kentucky or BYU on Saturday in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournament in Lexington, Ky.
Contact Renee Griffin at [email protected]