Notre Dame struggles on road against Illinois, Tulsa
Joe Everett | Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Notre Dame traveled to Champaign, Illinois, last weekend to compete in the ITA Kickoff Weekend, but fell to host No. 7 Illinois 4-0 on Saturday at the Atkins Tennis Center before narrowly losing to No. 24 Tulsa, 4-3, on Sunday in the consolation game.
Although the Irish were handed their first two losses of the season, head coach Ryan Sachire saw a lot of positives from his team.
“Going into that event, you know you’re going to face two really good teams,” Sachire said. “I don’t think we competed as we could have the first night — we were a bit tentative — but we definitely had more confidence and aggressiveness that second night against Tulsa.”
Although the Irish (2-2) were unable to pull out victories against top-25 competition, Sachire said the team’s expectations for this season have remained the same.
“Our schedule is chock-full of good teams — in literally 90 percent of our matches we’re playing in games that both teams can win,” Sachire said. “It reinforces the mindset of what we need to do in order to win matches.
“We’re going to evolve and keep getting better as the season progresses.”
Facing the hosts, the Irish (2-2) played a tight doubles point that came down to the final decision. The Illini (3-0) got off to a great start as redshirt junior Julian Childers and senior Brian Page defeated Irish freshmen Grayson Broadus and senior Eric Schnurrenberger 6-3 at the No. 3 slot, but Notre Dame evened things at the No. 1 spot with sixth-ranked senior duo Alex Lawson and Quentin Monaghan breaking Illinois senior Jared Hiltzik and redshirt freshman Alex Jesse on match point to win 7-5. Juniors Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar made it a close match on Court 2, but eventually lost a close 6-4 decision to Illini sophomores Aron Hiltzik and Aleks Vukic.
The Illini went on to take the next three matches at the top of the singles lineup, with No. 21 Jared Hiltzik gaining a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Covalschi on Court 2, followed by Vukic’s 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 37 Monaghan on Court 1. No. T-41 Aron Hiltzik sealed the victory for the Illini with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Lawson at No. 3.
The Irish fielded a much more competitive effort in the consolation game against No. 24 Tulsa, nearly pulling off the upset in a back-and-forth contest. The Irish won the doubles point thanks to Lawson and Monaghan gutting out a 7-6(3) win in the tiebreaker. However, the Golden Hurricane (3-1) would eventually clinch the victory in the singles matchups.
The Irish will return to action next Friday as they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on No. 25 Northwestern at 7 p.m. in a matchup Sachire said he is looking forward to.
“Recent matches with Northwestern seem to always come down to the wire,” Sachire said. “The guys are going to come in with confidence, but we also know that we’re going to have to play our best.”