Irish defeat Spartans, climb back into win column
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, March 6, 2019
After a five-game skid on the road, No. 13 Notre Dame returned home in style, besting Michigan State 5-2 inside Eck Tennis Pavilion on Friday afternoon.
The Irish (9-6, 2-0 ACC) started the day off well by nabbing the doubles point, then proceeded to win in the second through fifth singles spots, dropping only the matches in the first and sixth spot to the Spartans (5-9, 0-1 Big Ten).
The match opened with doubles competition, which has been one of Notre Dame’s strengths all season. The duo of sophomore William Howells and freshman Axel Nefve bested Michigan State seniors Ivan Rakick and Billy Shisler 6-2, while the pairing of Matt Gamble and senior Alex Lebedev defeated sophomore Jack Winkler and freshman Nick Williams, 7-5. The third-spot matchup of junior Guillermo Cabrera and senior Grayson Broadus against sophomore John Carlin and senior Colin Harvey went unfinished after the two early Irish victories secured the opening point for Notre Dame.
Going into singles competition, four of the six Irish singles players won their first sets, with three of these players going on to win their matches. Lebedev, currently ranked No. 19 among singles players in the country, was the only Notre Dame player who wasn’t able to convert in the following two sets after winning the first, falling to Winkler 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 from the first spot.
The Irish proceeded to win in straight sets in both the second and fourth singles spots, with Nefve besting Rakic 6-1, 6-2 and Cabrera knocking off freshman Anthony Pero 6-2, 6-4. Notre Dame also found victory in the third spot, but for No. 111 Howells, it took three sets to get the job done over Carlin, after falling 6-4 in the first set, he rallied to win the next two 6-0 and 6-3. Broadus found a win for Notre Dame in singles as well, defeating Williams 7-6 (6-4), 7-5 with the help of a tie-break victory in the first set. In the sixth spot, however, the Irish were on the wrong side of the tie-break, and senior Nathan Griffin fell to freshman Carson Gates 7-6 (10-8), 6-0.
All in all, Notre Dame rebounded from a five-match skid — which saw defeats at the hands of UCLA, Columbia, Mississippi State and Michigan, capped off by a 6-1 loss to No. 1 Ohio State — and found success against Michigan State to improve its record to 6-1 at home. The match was last non-conference competition the Irish will see for several weeks as the team prepares to take on five-straight ACC matches — on the road against Louisville, Miami and No. 19 Florida State, and back at home for a Friday-Sunday double header against No. 2 Wake Forest and North Carolina State.
Notre Dame only has two conference matches under its belt, but they have both been wins — a 4-3 victory against Virginia on Feb. 1 and a 6-1 result against Boston College on Feb. 8. With the beginning of the back half of the season and the pickup of ACC play, the Irish will have the chance to better gauge where they stand in the conference.
Notre Dame’s matchup against Louisville in Kentucky will take place Sunday at noon.