Irish look to bounce back
Greg Hadley | Monday, February 10, 2014
After their first loss of the season, the No. 16 Irish will try to get back in the win column against No. 30 Northwestern on Tuesday, ahead of the ITA National Indoor Championships in Houston this weekend.
Notre Dame (6-1) suffered its first defeat of the spring season against No. 22 Illinois on Sunday, 5-2. The loss spoiled the squad’s best start since 2005 and came at the beginning of a two-week stretch away from home.
“The Illinois match was a big contrast to how we played early in the season,” Irish coach Ryan Sachire said. “Early on in the year we did a really great job … when our opponents made a run. We would respond well and make a run of our own. At Illinois we started out great and when Illinois made that run, we didn’t respond. So our biggest focus this week in practice has been realizing that Northwestern is a good team and there will be a time when they have the momentum, and we need to get back and create our own momentum.”
The road does not get any easier for the Irish as they travel to Evanston, where the Wildcats (7-2) are undefeated at home and have yet to surrender a point this spring season, outscoring their opponents 23-0.
“We’re not concerned with our surroundings or travelling,” Sachire said. “All that matters to us is the quality of the opponent we’re playing.”The Wildcats do not have any player ranked in the top 100 for singles or top 60 in doubles, but have won two straight at home and upset then No. 24 Tulsa on the road Jan. 25. The Irish fell to Northwestern last year at the Eck Tennis Pavilion, but had won eight straight matches against the Wildcats before 2012.
“They are a really good team up and down the lineup,” Sachire said. “They’re tough at every position and are a legitimate top-25 team. We know that we’ll have to battle at every position if we’re going to have a chance to win.”
Despite the loss against the Illini, Sachire said that he does not plan to make any changes to his lineup.
“What we’re going to do [against Northwestern] is pretty much the same as we did against Illinois,” Sachire said. “We just have to do it a little better. We’re not that far removed from beating Kentucky twice in a row, so it’s just a matter of playing the tennis we’re capable of playing.”
Senior Greg Andrews continued his recent tough stretch against Illinois, dropping his fourth straight singles match. In doubles play, however, Notre Dame has won six out of seven points this season, led by Andrews and sophomore Alex Lawson.
For the Irish to defeat the Wildcats, they need a more complete effort from their entire lineup, Sachire said.
“Our goal is to play nine great matches — three doubles and six singles,” Sachire said. “We can’t have any poor performances to give them an easy win. When we can do that, we’re a pretty good team and not many other teams can beat us.”
The Irish square off against the Wildcats at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, in Evanston, Ill.