ND rallies past Kentucky
Ryan Klaus | Sunday, January 18, 2015
No. 14 Notre Dame had a positive start to the dual-meet season Saturday, beating No. 18 Kentucky, 4-3, in Lexington, Kentucky.“It’s always great to start the season with a win, particularly over a really good team like Kentucky from the SEC, which is a tennis powerhouse conference, and it’s extra special that it was on the road,” Irish coach Ryan Sachire said. “It certainly wasn’t an easy match to start the season, so we’re really proud of the effort and proud of our guys.”
While the Irish eventually got the win, a comeback was necessary. After the doubles portion of the match, Kentucky was up 2-0, as the eighth-ranked pair of junior Alex Lawson and senior Billy Pecor fell 6-1 to juniors Kevin Lai and Beck Pennington, and the ninth-ranked pair of sophomores Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar fell to sophomore Jerry Lopez and freshman William Bushamuka.
Despite the team’s early struggles, however, Sachire said he was confident in the talent that Notre Dame has in doubles.
“I think our goal every match is to have nine really strong positions out there,” Sachire said. “Certainly, we did not come out of the gates in the doubles in the way that we normally do and the way that we expect to do. We fully expect our doubles to be a strength of our team this year, but we also know that we have strong single players too.”
Without the doubles point, the Irish still came back to beat the Wildcats by winning four of the six singles matches.
“It was great that we could be put in that position and come through and get an overall team win despite not playing our best in doubles,” Sachire said. “And we believe we’ll be playing better doubles next weekend. That’s for sure.”
Sachire said he was most impressed individually with the performances of junior Quentin Monaghan, who debuted at the top singles spot for the Irish and beat Pennington, 6-2, 6-4, and Pecor, who defeated Lai in the No. 5 singles spot, 7-5, 6-2.
“We graduated Greg Andrews last year, who was a pretty dominant number one player for us for the last two seasons, and Quentin Monaghan was in his first legit match at number one singles, and I thought he put us in a great position,” Sachire said. “For Billy Pecor, who was a staple in our singles lineup a couple years ago, but battled some injuries last year, to come through for us and clinch the match was a huge win. It was really good to see our whole team come through, but especially those two guys because I think those were significant matches for them, and I think they can really build on them moving forward.”Looking ahead to next weekend, Columbia, Oklahoma State and Tennessee — all of which are ranked — will be in town, with the Irish facing off first with Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“We’re building the program towards winning a national championship, and my philosophy is in order to be the best, you have to play and ultimately beat the best,” Sachire said. “Our schedule throughout the entire season this year is really challenging, and it’s just kind of the way we’ve chosen to do things. We know we’re probably going to lose some matches along the way, but we want to expose our guys to the best level of competition possible and ultimately have them develop as players because of it. Beating Kentucky was a great start because it can build a little confidence within our group, and we know we can beat good teams because we are a good team, but we certainly know that we have a huge challenge ahead of us this weekend.”
Notre Dame faces Oklahoma State this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Eck Tennis Pavilion as part of ITA Kickoff Weekend and continues play Sunday.