Irish win four-team tournament in Oklahoma
Ellen Geyer | Wednesday, January 30, 2019
The Notre Dame men’s tennis team continued its winning start last weekend, besting both Vanderbilt and Oklahoma to qualify for a spot at the ITA Indoor Nationals. By winning both matches, the No. 17 Irish (3-0) grabbed the top spot in the four-team tournament and remained undefeated on the season.
“I thought our guys did a great job of always responding when our opponents made kind of runs at us and, and we didn’t go away in any situation,” Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said. “As a program, we’ve talked as a group about being nine spots tough and, and really challenging our opponents at every single position. And I think we did a great job of that all week. I know we did a great job of that all weekend long.”
Saturday, Notre Dame faced Vanderbilt (3-1) in an non-conference clash to start the weekend. The Irish shut out the Commodores 4-0, winning six matchups in all — three doubles and three singles. The three doubles victories claimed Notre Dame’s first point, and the remaining singles victories clinched the final three points.
The Irish nabbed the doubles point in large part due to the success of their top pairing — sophomores Richard Ciamarra and Tristan McCormick, who are ranked No. 11 in doubles nationally. McCormick was happy with his team’s performance, noting the importance of notching the doubles point early on.
“We came out hot … we took leads on all the courts, I believe,” McCormick said. “We got that point to start off, so, you know, getting the doubles point is huge because you can go into singles with that point under your belt, and not feeling the pressure of having to come back and win four out of the six [singles] matches.”
McCormick was also happy with the way his team played as a whole unit on Saturday against Vanderbilt.
“We expected to win that match, but to do it in a pretty demanding and quick way that we did was great. We’re getting to a point where last year, you know, we accomplished things that we hadn’t done in a while but this year, you know, we’re kind of expecting to accomplish those things. So, doing that against Vandy was important,” McCormick said.
Sachire echoed McCormick’s enthusiasm about the team’s success against the Commodores, crediting Ciamarra and fellow sophomore William Howells for their clutch performances.
“I think coming out of Kentucky, you know, [Ciamarra] and [Howells] both lost down in Kentucky, and for them to both win in straight sets against Vanderbilt was a great sign … I think for those two sophomores, [Ciamarra] and [Howells], to respond after losing the previous match at Kentucky and come back and win in straight sets against a good Vandy team was huge for us,” Sachire said.
After shutting out Vanderbilt on Saturday, Notre Dame turned their attention to Oklahoma (5-1), who it advanced to face on Sunday after finding success the previous day. The No. 13 Sooners gave the Irish a challenge, particularly as the match took place in Norman, on Oklahoma’s home courts.
“[Oklahoma] had a crowd of 300, 400 people and they’re loud and, you know, in a tennis environment that’s a little bit different, a little bit unique and so it made an impact. Oklahoma does not lose much at all, but certainly not much on their home courts, and we felt why that’s the case on Sunday because they do have a really good home court advantage with a good fan base behind them,” Sachire said. “But again, you know, many of our guys, well everyone except for Axel [Nefve] really, played key roles in our team last year. So, they’ve been through those kinds of battles before and I think our experience in our composure really showed on Sunday.”
McCormick and his teammates prepared well for the battle, rising to the occasion and besting yet another top opponent.
“I think we knew that it was going to be a loud atmosphere, but it was, I think everybody was all business,” McCormick said. “I mean we, we knew that we had the ability to win the match beforehand and I think Oklahoma, you know, knew that it was going to be a dogfight. I don’t think we played special. I think we just went in and did our jobs and you know trusted the training that we’ve been putting in. We’re just confident in ourselves.”
With the 4-2 victory against Oklahoma, Notre Dame clinched the weekend’s championship title. The undefeated start echoes the way the Irish started the year last year, when they won their first seven matches.
Notre Dame will look to continue its success Friday, with a matchup at home against No. 16 Virginia to open ACC play. Match time is scheduled for 5 p.m. inside the Eck Tennis Pavilion and will be the first of a six-match home-stand for Notre Dame.