No. 18 Irish earn first win of the spring 5-2 over Kentucky
Patrick Gallagher | Tuesday, January 22, 2019
The No. 18 Irish handed Kentucky its first loss of the season Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky. Coming off a strong fall season, the Irish looked to set the tone for the spring and did so by earning a 5-2 victory over the home Wildcats.
Irish head coach Ryan Sachire noted his team’s composure in their opening match of the spring campaign.
“In general, our team handled adversity and big moments … pretty well given the fact that it was the first match of the year,” he said. “There is a tendency to get a little tight and not play your best in the biggest moments, and our team did a pretty good job of avoiding that.”
In doubles, the Irish (1-0) cruised to victory as senior Grayson Broadus and junior Matt Gamble beat their Wildcat opponents 6-1. Sophomore Richard Ciamarra and sophomore Tristan McCormick locked up the doubles point as they earned a 6-3 win, giving Notre Dame an early 1-0 lead in the contest.
Singles play began with senior Alex Lebedev handling Wildcat senior Ryo Matsumura in two sets, earning the Irish another point. However, Kentucky’s senior captain Enzo Wallart would lead a comeback for the Wildcats (3-1) by winning his match 6-4, 6-2 against Ciamarra. However, Notre Dame was able to stop Kentucky’s momentum as McCormick overcame an early deficit to win his contest in the fourth set. Freshman Axel Nefve and junior Guillermo Cabrera secured victory for the Irish by winning in three and two sets in their respective matches. Kentucky earned a final point with sophomore Kento Yamada beating sophomore William Howells in two sets.
When asked about standout performances, Sachire stated that Lebedev and Nefve’s wins were especially notable.
“[Lebedev’s] opponent … was one of the best players in the country and was consistently ranked in the top ten in the nation last year,” Sachire said. “For Alex to beat him, I don’t think it was a huge surprise, but I think the decisiveness and doing it on Kentucky’s courts … was significant for our team. Axel Nefve, in his first dual match in college, battling the way he did and ultimately clinching the match was significant for our freshman, who have never been in that situation before.”
Looking ahead, Notre Dame travels to Norman, Oklahoma to compete against Vanderbilt on Saturday. If they win, the Irish could get the chance to test their skill against No. 13 Oklahoma on ITA Kickoff Weekend, right before ACC play begins February 1 when No. 17 Virginia comes to South Bend.
With spring play now officially underway, Sachire outlined two main goals for the 2019 season.
“The majority of this group was here last year, and I thought we did a lot of good things,” Sachire said. “This year we are determined to take another step as a program. Specifically, we want to play for an ACC championship at the end of the year and establish ourselves as a top ten team. I think we have the ability to do so, but, at the same time, we’ve got to continue to come together as a group and each guy has to take some ownership over his game.”