Irish round out week of top-15 matchups, falling short of comeback over Illinois
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, February 7, 2019
After winning three consecutive home matchups last week, two of which were against top-15 opponents, the No. 13 Irish (6-1, 1-0 ACC) fell to No. 15 Illinois on Wednesday, 4-3. This loss — the first for the Irish this season — came in the middle of a six-match homestand.
On the doubles side of the competition, senior Grayson Broadus and junior Matthew Gamble were the lone victors for Notre Dame, defeating Illinois junior duo Zeke Clark and Vuk Budic, 6-4. Meanwhile, Irish teammate pairs senior Alex Lebedev and freshman Axel Nefve and sophomores Tristan McCormick and Richard Ciamarra both lost 6-4 and 6-3, respectively.
Despite a rough start on the doubles court, the Irish seemed to recover with a strong start in the singles competition, winning all six courts in the first set by a 13-point total margin. On court one, Lebedev continued his dominance, beating his opponent in two sets. Junior Guillermo Cabrera, however, claimed the first win for the Irish, besting Illini junior Noe Khlif, 6-2, 6-1. As the team continued to build momentum, McCormick came back in his singles match, soundly defeating his opponent 6-3 before winning a close-fought second set 7-6.
However, that comeback would prove futile, as the Irish were unable to clinch any of the remaining three games.
Ciamarra found himself in a hotly contested battle, taking Illinois junior Aleks Kovacevic to a third set before losing 6-4. Moving on to the third court, after beating his opponent 6-4, Kefve found himself on the wrong side of the momentum swing, losing the next two sets 4-6. Finally, sophomore William Howells was unable to hold off sophomore Caleb Chakravarthi in the third set, losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 as the Irish earned they first loss of the season.
The Irish will continue this homestand as they look to bounce back this Friday in a double-header against Boston College and Ball State. Notre Dame is scheduled to take on the Eagles at 3:30 p.m., before returning to the courts at 7 p.m. against the Cardinals. Following this double-header, the Irish will take on three Big Ten teams, two of which will be on the road, before jumping into the thick of conference play.
Although they’ve built an impressive resume, rising in the rankings to just outside the top 10, Notre Dame will need Lebedev and Ciamarra to step up for the back stretch of the season, with six of their remaining opponents rounding out the top-25, including No. 1 Wake Forest.