Youthful squad remains resilient and eager to improve
Alex Bender | Friday, May 18, 2018
Coming into this season for Notre Dame, expectations were somewhat difficult to pin down. Although a team with a young core consisting mostly of freshman and sophomores, the team has put together one of its best seasons in a few years despite the lack of experience. The Irish, who sit at No. 24 in the country, hold a record of 19-14 on the season, and while they came up short in the ACC semifinals against No. 1 Wake Forest, and in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Michigan, senior captain Brendon Kempin commented on the team’s strong play this season.
“We have a really young, talented squad, so it was a little unpredictable how we were going to shake out, but the younger guys have really stepped up to the plate, and they’ve been some of the best performers all year,” Kempin said. “It’s been an awesome year so far. We came out really strong, beat Texas in kickoff weekend … this is the best year we’ve had since my freshman year, and guys are continuing to get better.”
Admittedly, things have not been perfect for the Irish all season. The team has gone through a couple of losing streaks throughout the year, but they showed an ability to bounce back from those in rather quick fashion. This is especially impressive given the young, inexperienced roster, Kempin said, and he commended his teammates for having the right attitude throughout the season.
“We had the mindset that we knew we were going to face adversity with a ton of talented teams, a ton of good teams, and at times were going to lose,” he said. “When that happened, it was just being really committed to getting back on the practice court, back in the gym, getting better, and learning.”
The season may not be over just yet for the Irish, but for some of the veteran members of the team, their collegiate careers will be wrapping up soon, and it’s something head coach Ryan Sachire keeps in mind entering the final stretch. Sachire said he appreciates all his two seniors, Brendon Kempin and Drew Dawson, have done for the program.
“Brendon and Drew are super people and super representatives of Notre Dame and our program,” Sachire said. “Each in his own way has played a significant role in the development of our team, the development of our younger guys. They’ve contributed on the court and just as importantly, if not more importantly, they contributed to the team culture and the confidence and to the attitude our group has right now.”
After concluding their team season at the NCAAs — defeating Western Michigan before falling to the Wolverines — the Irish still look forward to the NCAA singles championship in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, where junior Alex Lebedev will compete. After his ITA Summer national championship title, Lebedev’s resume includes trips to the round of 16 at the ITA All-American Championship and ITA Fall national championship and nine victories over ranked opponents. This is the 13th-straight season the Irish have sent a representative to the championship.