Notre Dame bests multiple top-15 squads, remains undefeated
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, February 4, 2019
No. 13 Notre Dame kept its record perfect over the weekend, defending home court and besting two top-15 teams in No. 12 Virginia and No. 14 Texas A&M.
On Friday, the Irish (6-0, 1-0 ACC) defeated the Cavaliers (5-1, 1-1 ACC) 4-3 in a comeback win. Improving on their undefeated record, the squad remained level-headed Friday in what was their first ACC match and home competition of the spring season.
Like Notre Dame, Virginia went into Friday’s match undefeated. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, only one team could survive the day without a loss, and the Irish made their case in convincing fashion, playing from behind for the first time all season and eventually emerging on top.
The evening began with doubles competition, and the Irish grabbed the point early on thanks to 6-2 and 6-0 wins from their top two pairings. Notre Dame has won the doubles point in each of their four matches this season, and Friday’s success was courtesy of the pairings of sophomores Richard Ciamarra and Tristan McCormick as well as senior Alex Lebedev and freshman Axel Nefve.
The duo of Lebedev and Nefve finished their match first, downing Virginia’s number two pair of freshmen Ryan Goetz and William Woodall. Ciamarra and McCormick cemented the point with their subsequent win, beating junior Carl Soderlund and sophomore Matthew Lord, the top representatives from the Cavaliers. With the doubles point clinched, Irish went into the singles matches sitting on a 1-0 lead.
The Notre Dame advantage was quickly erased as Virginia’s Henrik Wiersholm downed Nefve 6-1, 6-4 in the first-completed singles competition of the night. The Cavaliers kept their foot on the gas, winning the next two singles matches with Soderlund defeating Ciamarra 6-1, 7-5 and sophomore Gianni Ross besting McCormick 6-3, 7-5. On the wrong side of a 3-1 score, the Irish fought back, and Notre Dame junior Guillermo Cabrera beat Virginia senior Aswin Lizen 7-5, 6-2 to reduce the deficit to one point, 3-2.
With everything to play for, Lebedev stayed composed, winning his match against Virginia’s top singles player, freshman Brandon Nakashima, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to tie the day once again, this time at a score of 3-3. Building on his teammate’s momentum and knowing the competition was on the line, Irish sophomore William Howells secured the Notre Dame comeback, taking his match to three sets and emerging victorious against Goetz 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
It was a day of firsts for the Irish: first comeback victory, first ACC win and home competition.
Notre Dame then hosted a double-header against No. 14 Texas A&M and IUPUI on Sunday.
Against the Aggies (3-3), the Irish once again claimed the doubles point to start the match, thanks to the duo of senior Grayson Broadus and junior Matt Gamble defeating Texas A&M’s Barnaby Smith and Austin Abbrat 6-0, while Lebedev and Nefve secured the point with a 6-3 victory.
In singles play, Cabrera finished his match first, winning 6-2, 6-4. After Howells and Nefve both fell in their respective matches, Ciamarra won in straight sets to put the Irish back ahead 3-2 with two matches left, as McCormick and Lebedev waited for their chance to clinch another top-15 win.
Lebedev earned the fourth and winning Irish point by defeating Texas A&M’s Juan Carlos Aguilar 7-6 (6-1), 6-1. McCormick, after claiming the tie-breaking point to win the first set 7-6 (6-3), dropped the second set, but rebounded to win the match tiebreaker 10-7, concluding the match and wrapping up a 5-2 Notre Dame victory.
Sunday night, the Irish earned their sixth win of the season by defeating IUPUI 5-2. Notre Dame won five singles matches in straight sets, with junior Johnathan Small and sophomore Paul Gota leading the way for Ryan Sachire’s squad — the Irish head coach opted to rest his top individuals against the Jaguars given the physical strain of a double-header.
The Irish will now go on to compete at home in their three subsequent matches, facing No. 15 Illinois on Wednesday and playing another double-header Friday against Boston College and Ball State.