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Men’s Tennis

Hagar finds success as Notre Dame struggles in postseason

| Friday, May 19, 2017

Notre Dame finished the 2016-17 season April 27 when it fell to Louisville 4-3 in the second round of the ACC tournament. The match turned out to be the final match of the season for the Irish, who fell just short of a team NCAA tournament bid.

Senior Josh Hagar will represent the Irish (13-13 4-8 ACC) at the NCAA men’s singles championship, which will take place beginning May 24 at Dan Magill Tennis Center in Athens, Georgia. Hagar recorded a 20-15 overall singles record and is currently ranked No. 51 nationally.

The Irish recorded a 10-5 home record but struggled on the road, finishing with a 2-7 road record and a 1-1 mark at neutral sites.

The Irish started their fall schedule Sept. 16, when they participated in the Chowder Fest Tournament in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After sending players to compete in individual tournaments in California and Oklahoma, the Irish hosted the Bobby Bayliss Invitational, which began Oct. 7 at Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish finished their fall schedule at the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Notre Dame started its spring 2017 schedule on January 20, winning a home match against Ball State, 7-0. After losses to Kentucky and No. 9 North Carolina, the Irish won seven of their next eight matches. After an up-and-down month of March, the Irish lost seven of the 10 matches they played in April, culminating in the loss to Louisville (22-9, 6-6).

Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said some of the positives that came out of this season were Hagar’s strong play, as well as the experience the younger players gained.

“Josh had a really great year,” Sachire said. “It’s not easy playing as a No. 1 for a team like ours because of the competition level you are playing against as a No. 1 is really high, and I think Josh did a great job of really improving and learning from losses and ultimately became a much better player at the end of the year than he was at the beginning of the year.

“I think the second positive was all the young players we had play. We had a lot of freshmen in our lineup that gained a lot of valuable experienced and learned and made progress. We’re obviously disappointed by the overall tenor of the season and the results that we had, but at the same time, I think there was a good amount of building and improvement made throughout the year by our young guys and hopefully we can benefit from that down the road.”

Sachire said his team has some individual things to work on before next season.

“A lot of it is individual for each guy on what they need to improve,” Sachire said. “Tennis is an individual sport up until college, and a lot of our guys have never been on teams before and I think that got exposed a little bit. So I think the answer is to use each other more and to compete as a collective group better when we’re playing matches. That means feeding off of one another and when one player has a big moment in his match, the other guys understand and recognize that they thrive off of that confidence boost over on their courts as well. I think we can do a better job of that and we will. That comes with maturity and a lot of guys who play college tennis understand that more and more, but clearly it is something we can do better and will do better next year.”

Sachire said his team’s win over No. 21 Northwestern and Senior Day were his top-two moments of the season.

“[Northwestern was] a top-15 program last year and were as high as No. 8 in the country this year at one stage,” Sachire said. “For our team to beat them relatively easily back in February, I think was a great night for us. We love playing home night matches here at Holy Cross, and that was a great environment to play in and a great experience and certainly a great moment for our season.

“The second memory is the last home match [Hagar] and [senior] Eddy [Covalschi] played. As a doubles team, they beat the No. 1 doubles team in the country, and then Josh beat the No. 3 ranked singles player in the country in singles in that match against Wake Forest. Our team lost, so it wasn’t necessarily a great day for our team, but for those individuals to kind of conclude their Notre Dame home schedule with such a positive moment for both of them and a moment they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, I think that was a positive too.”

Sachire said he wants his team to use the negative experiences they went through this year to help them learn and grow for next year.

“Our goals are to improve and learn from the experiences that were a little bit painful to go through this year,” Sachire said. “We lost so many close matches and matches we were in a great position to win and you have to learn from that and have to learn what held us back in those moments and as individual competitors and as a team and be better because of it. I think we’re all determined to be a great team next year and learn from what we went through this year.”

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