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Men’s Tennis

Irish look to continue winning start at Oklahoma tournament

| Thursday, January 24, 2019

After opening its season last weekend with a 5-2 win at the University of Kentucky, Notre Dame will hit the road again this weekend to face two more non-conference foes. In Norman, Okla, the Irish (1-0) will face the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday. Notre Dame will then face either Drake or Oklahoma on Sunday, depending on which of those two teams posts the same result as the Irish Saturday. Saturday’s winners will compete for a perfect record on the weekend, while the losers will play in a consolation match.

Looking back to Notre Dame’s season-opening win, Irish head coach Ryan Sachire felt pleased with his team’s performance overall.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish senior Grayson Broadus prepares to return a ball during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to North Carolina at the Eck Tennis Pavilion on March 23.

“That’s a tough opening match of the year,” Sachire said. “That was our first match and, you know, our guys did a great job. … There’s always first match jitters, nerves, and even though [we] have played a ton of tennis matches, you know, the first dual-match of the season, there’s always something a little bit different about it. And so again, it was good to get it underneath our belt.”

Over the weekend, the Irish were led by senior Alex Lebedev and freshman Axel Nefve.

“You look at Alex Lebedev, you know, the dominating win he had at number-one singles,” Sachire said. “That guy last year, the Kentucky player, was a top-10 nationally ranked player and for, for [Lebedev] to, to beat him as badly as he did on that guy’s home court says a lot.”

Sachire anticipates that the senior will continue to play an enormous role as the season progresses and the Irish jump in to ACC competition. Nefve will be a similarly critical part of Notre Dame’s future success, especially after proving himself a level-headed competitor against the Wildcats last weekend.

“Axel was down 4-2 in the third set came back and won 7-6 in the third to clinch the match,” Satire said. “A lot of freshmen don’t respond as positively to that kind of moment as he did. And so that was obviously really cool to see him flourish in a big moment.”

Despite the team’s success against the Wildcats (3-1), the Irish have already shifted their focus to what lies ahead of them this week.

“We’re focused 100 percent on Vanderbilt … on playing the best match we can play on Vanderbilt and honestly we’re 100 percent focused, I hope, on having the best practice on Thursday that we can have, and then the best practice on Friday that we can have and then playing the best match on Saturday,” Sachire said. “Once you start getting ahead of yourself a little bit and get out of the day-to-day mindset, you know, you’re in trouble.”

Notre Dame certainly has a battle in front of them in Vanderbilt, another traditional SEC powerhouse who is 2-0 on the season. But the Irish have depth on their roster, something Sachire sees as a great advantage.

“I think you’ll see a little bit of variety in our lineup throughout the course of the year just because we have so many guys that have proven themselves to be really, really good dual match players in their history and so, you know, whatever lineup we feel that gives us the best chance to win on that day, we’re going to play,” Sachire said.

The Irish will have their work cut out for them regardless of which two of the three teams they end up playing this weekend.

“I’m worried about everybody. I’m a normal coach,” Sachire said with a chuckle. “It’s gonna be a dog fight. It’s going to be competitive and hopefully we can compete the same way we did in the big moments like last Saturday.”

Notre Dame’s first match of the weekend against Vanderbilt will take place Saturday, with a scheduled start-time of 2 p.m.

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