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Men’s Tennis

Notre Dame set for matches with Illinois, Louisville, DePaul

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018

After more than a week off, No. 19 Notre Dame will play three matches in the course of four days. First, the Irish will travel to Urbana, Illinois, for a road contest against No. 6 Illinois on Wednesday. Notre Dame will then host a conference match against Louisville on Saturday at noon before another Saturday match, this time with DePaul, at 5:30 p.m. Both of those matches will take place at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

The Irish (8-5, 1-0 ACC) are coming off of a 7-0 win over Toledo on Feb. 25. The victory snapped a five-match losing streak, during which the Irish dropped decisions to No. 8 North Carolina, No. 9 Florida, No. 12 Duke, No. 7 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State. Notre Dame started the regular season 7-0 before the losing streak.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish freshman Paul Gota prepares to serve during Notre Dame’s 7-0 win over Toledo on Feb. 25 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Illinois (8-4, 0-0 Big Ten) is coming off of a 4-3 win over Virginia on Sunday, while Louisville (9-3, 1-1 ACC) defeated Virginia 6-1 on Friday. DePaul (11-5, 1-0 Big East) went 1-2 during a three-match set at the HEB Tournament of Champions in Corpus Christi, Texas, last weekend.

Notre Dame head coach Ryan Sachire said he knows his team’s competition in the next coming days will be tough.

“It will definitely be three strong teams we’re going to play,” Sachire said. “Illinois is ranked No. 6 in the country, and we’re playing them [Wednesday] night at their place, which is obviously a great challenge for us. We know their guys very well, we respect them a lot and we expect it to be a very close and competitive match, and we’re definitely excited about that opportunity.

“Then, we’ll come home on Saturday and play one of our biggest rivals in Louisville. We played them twice last year and lost both matches 4-3, and that will be another one that will be a nail-biter and another close match. Then we’ll finish the weekend off against DePaul, who is a Big East power and a strong program in their own right as well. We’re expecting it to be quite a challenge but, at the same time, a great opportunity to look forward to and see kind of where we’re at here halfway through the season.”

Despite the recent slump, Sachire said he wants his team to keep continuing to do what they have done all season.

“I think we’ve done a great job this year of letting it fly, letting it rip and playing really aggressive tennis and going after and attacking the situation, not playing scared and sensitive, and I want to continue to see us doing that same thing,” Sachire said. “It is an amazing privilege to play in matches like the ones we have coming up here that are going to be close and competitive, playing against some of the best teams in the country. We want to make sure we are in the mindset of attacking those challenges and attacking those opportunities and really giving us the best chance to be successful.”

Sachire said he isn’t worried about the long layoff his team has had from their last match to now.

“I think it is going to help us,” Sachire said. “We played a lot at the beginning of the year, and it’s good for us to kind of be able to take a deep breath and let our guys rest a little bit and recover and focus on school and, at the same time, get some great training in. I feel like our guys have really improved from the last time out there, so hopefully we can take advantage of that and really play our best match of the season [Wednesday].”

All five of the teams Notre Dame has lost to this regular season are now ranked in the top 12 in the country. This is just one of the reasons why Sachire isn’t concerned about the recent slump and why he is optimistic about the future, he said.

“Tennis is interesting — it is nine separate matches going on and a dual match, three doubles and six singles, and so it’s not a team win or loss as an indictment on how you’re playing,” Sachire said. “I think we’ve been playing very well all year, and we just happened to come up a couple of points short here and there. There were no changes that needed to be made. I think it was just continuing to improve and stay the course.

“All year, we’ve given ourselves a great chance to be successful and be in matches against the best teams in the country, and that’s again the goal [Wednesday] night. And then, when we get to the stage when it’s time to separate, hopefully we can do it a little bit better than we did in the last couple of matches.”

Notre Dame will next take the court 7 p.m. Wednesday night against Illinois at Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Illinois.

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