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Men’s Tennis

Notre Dame opens season with veteran-led team

| Wednesday, September 7, 2016

After four months of preparations, Notre Dame is ready to get back in the swing of things.

The Irish will kick off their 2016 fall schedule in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they will compete in a tournament at Harvard from Sept. 16-18.

Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said he feels like a lot of his players made significant strides in their development over the course of this past summer.

“Tennis is a year round sport, and our guys did a really good job of practicing and playing in tournaments on their own throughout the summer,” Sachire said. “We have a number of returning guys who are better players right now than when they played their last college match back in May.”

Irish senior Josh Hagar follows through on a return during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Duke at Eck Tennis Pavilion on March 20.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish senior Josh Hagar follows through on a return during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Duke at Eck Tennis Pavilion on March 20.

Sachire said he expects his team to be one of the hardest working, if not the hardest working team, in the country.

“We expect to be a really competitive team, both within our own squad and within every single match that we play,” Sachire said. “In terms of expectations for results and rankings and wins and stuff like that, we’ll let those happen. We’re going to focus on the day-to-day process of those things and feel like if we take care of those things, we’re going to have a great year.”

The Irish finished with an overall record of 15-14 last season, including a 6-6 mark in the ACC. Their season ended when they were defeated by Stanford in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Sachire said he hopes his team will build off of the success of last season.

“We had a great month of April last year,” Sachire said. “We had some injuries and didn’t play very well at the beginning part of last year, but we did a tremendous job finishing the season off right and had a great month of April. I feel like we have some momentum because of that, but this is a new team. This is a new chapter in the history of our program. There’s a lot of good freshman coming in and looking to make their mark. We also have a lot of returning guys, too, that didn’t play or didn’t play as much as they wanted to last year, and they want an opportunity, too.

“As a program, we feel a tremendous amount of confidence and pride in what we did last season. But in terms of players who actually played in the matches, we’re going to have a fair number of new faces and familiar faces in different roles, and we’re excited about that.”

Sachire said improving his team’s doubles play is going to be a major point of emphasis in early practices this year and throughout the fall.

“We lost a lot of our doubles superstars [from last season],” Sachire said. “We were a good doubles team last year, but more than anything, I think we lost some really key pieces as part of our lineup. That’s something where the new guys have a lot of experience to make up for. So we’re going to really train and practice for that as much as we can and take pride in, hopefully, being one of the best doubles teams in the country.”

When asked which members of his team he expects to have the biggest impact this season, Sachire pointed to the team’s two seniors, Josh Hager and Eddy Covalschi.

“They have both been figures in the top half of our singles lineup for the last two years,” Sachire said. “During both their sophomore and junior years, they played in the top three of our lineup, and as a doubles combo they’ve been ranked as high as No. 10 in the country and have had some very significant national wins. If they have great senior years, we’re going to have a great season.”

Irish senior Eddy Covalschi returns the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Duke on March 18 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish senior Eddy Covalschi returns the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Duke on March 18 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Sachire said he thinks one of the beautiful things about his team’s schedule is that it’s tough.

“We have all kinds of opportunities,” Sachire said. “The two-time defending NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers come to South Bend. I think that will be an exciting match for us. But we play a lot of other great competition, both at home and on the road. Our schedule is balanced with great opportunities.”

Sachire said what excites him the most about this year’s team is the competition and the energy that all of his players bring.

“Every one of them [is] striving to play in a role for the first time if they’re a freshman on our team, or in a role bigger than what they played last season,” Sachire said. “We graduated our No. 1 singles player and our No. 1 doubles team that made it to the semis of the NCAA doubles tournament. Literally every spot is up for grabs.”

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