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Men’s Tennis

Irish rely on doubles play early on in season

| Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hosting three of the top teams in the nation in one the most competitive pods of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, No. 14 Notre Dame anticipated a series of close matches this past weekend at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Although the Irish walked away with the 4-3 victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State in the first round, they just missed the mark in the final match of the weekend, falling to No. 16 Columbia, 4-2, on Sunday.

Notre Dame sophomore Josh Hagar follows through on a shot during a 4-3 win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 24 at Eck Tennis Center.Michael Yu | The Observer
Notre Dame sophomore Josh Hagar follows through on a shot during a 4-3 win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 24 at Eck Tennis Center.

This wasn’t the first time the Irish competed in matches decided by razor-thin margins. Earlier this season, the Irish earned a 4-3 win over No. 18 Kentucky, mounting a comeback in the singles round.

Notre Dame is the only team in the nation to have two doubles pairs ranked in the top 10: No. 8 junior Alex Lawson and senior Billy Pecor, and No. 9 sophomores Josh Hagar and Eddy Covalschi. The Irish have captured the doubles point in two of three matches so far this year, but the squad has had a tough time keeping that lead in singles play, where it is has compiled an 8-9 record.

So far, the Irish have managed to come out on top in a majority of these showdowns, but more consistency under pressure is a skill the team is working on as it moves forward, Irish coach Ryan Sachire said.

“I talk [about this] with the team a lot,” Sachire said. “[I] know we will be in a lot of competitive matches, but we can’t get too high or too low through our results, good or bad.”

Against Oklahoma State, the Irish displayed some of the poise Sachire wanted, securing a 4-3 win on a third-set tiebreaker of the final singles match. Junior Eric Schnurrenberger rallied from a 2-5 third-set deficit to Cowboys freshman Tristan Meraut and managed a long return on the serve for match point and the eventual 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8) win.

“I thought we did a good job playing and competing this weekend,” Sachire said. “We had an absolutely knockdown, drag-out battle against Oklahoma State and came out on top. Against Columbia, we just came up a little short.”

The loss to the Lions, however, was close all the way through. The outranked Pecor and Lawson came from behind to beat the No. 6 senior duo of Max Schnur and Ashok Narayana in a 7-6 (3) upset. But Hagar and Covalschi had a surprising loss to junior Mike Vermeer and senior Winston Lin. The latter duo came back from a 1-5 deficit to secure the win.

In singles play, the Irish struggled early, losing four of six first sets. Only Pecor bounced back to take the final two.

“[We have] one of the toughest schedules in the country,” Sachire said. “As long as we are competing with the right mindset and put ourselves in the position to win, we will be successful this year.”

Notre Dame stays at Eck Tennis Pavilion to take on Northwestern on Jan. 30.

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