Irish poised for another top-25 season
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, January 16, 2019
The Notre Dame men’s tennis team starts its spring season this Saturday, traveling to the University of Kentucky to take on the Wildcats (2-0). The Irish, ranked 18th in the country by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), are tied with Kentucky in the all-time series at 17 wins each. Under current head coach Ryan Sachire, Notre Dame leads the series 4-2.
This weekend’s competition will be Notre Dame’s first action since November, when senior Alex Lebedev played his way to the 2018 Oracle ITA Fall Nationals consolation title. Prior to Lebedev’s win, the Irish team nabbed two tournament titles, winning the Gopher Challenge in Minnesota and the Dick Vitale Clay Court Invitational in Florida.
The Irish are led primarily by Lebedev, who represented Notre Dame at the ITA Fall Nationals for the second season in a row. Despite an career riddled early on with injury, the senior emerged as a leader for the Irish in the fall, capturing seven trophies through the last four tournaments of the season.
Another key senior will be Grayson Broadus, who has been a consistent player for the Irish throughout his collegiate career. Other seniors Nathan Griffin and Daniel Rayl will also provide leadership for the developing Notre Dame team.
The Irish also have some notable additions to their roster this year, with freshmen Andrew Mariados and Axel Nefve poised to compete in their first spring collegiate seasons.
Mariados, a native of Syracuse, NY, holds a 13-4 ITF record and will look to help his team continue to rise in the rankings.
Nefve, a highly-touted five-star blue chip recruit, will look to build on the success he had in the fall. Coming into South Bend as the No. 16 recruit in his class, Nefve won the championship title at the Dick Vitale Clay Court Invitational this fall, besting teammate William Howells in the finals 6-2, 6-3 to claim first place. Nefve also participated in the ITF Futures Event with teammates Lebedev and sophomore Tristan McCormick, a tournament where the players faced professional-level competition. Nefve will look to continue to have a major role in the team’s success as both the season and his career progress.
Looking past this weekend’s competition, the Irish will face four teams who are currently in the top-10, with an additional five opponents in the top-25. Notable matchups include No. 1 Wake Forest at home at the end of March, No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus at the end of February, and No. 6 North Carolina at Chapel Hill in early April.
Meantime, the Irish will follow this weekend’s matchup against Kentucky with a non-conference bout against Vanderbilt, after which they will face Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas A&M consecutively — ranked 13th, 17th and 9th, respectively.
Despite Kentucky’s position as an unranked team, the Irish should not look past this weekend’s competition. The Wildcats opened their season with a clean sweep, besting both IUPUI and Northern Kentucky by scores of 7-0 in Lexington. Kentucky did not lose a set, going 12-for-12 in its singles matches and winning all six of its doubles matches handily.
This weekend, Notre Dame will look to open the spring season on a high note against the Wildcats. The match is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday.