ND to begin final regular season road trip
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, April 3, 2019
The No. 16 Irish will play their final road matches of the regular season this weekend, traveling to North Carolina to face three opponents, two of which are in the ACC.
Notre Dame (11-11, 3-5 ACC) will take on North Carolina Central on Thursday, Duke on Friday and No. 11 North Carolina on Sunday.
After opening the season with a six-match win streak, the Irish have faltered down the stretch, sustaining losses from five of their last six opponents. Most recently, Notre Dame was defeated by Virginia Tech 5-2, unable to regain momentum after losing the doubles point. Although freshman Axel Nefve and senior Grayson Broadus both posted comeback wins in singles after each losing the first set, the two points they earned were not enough to stop the Hokies’ (15-5, 5-3 ACC) victory.
Looking forward, the Irish will first face the Eagles of North Carolina Central in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. NCCU (4-9, 3-0 MEAC) has won three of its last four matches, but it has yet to play a ranked opponent this season. Notre Dame, on the other hand, has already seen 12 teams in the top 25, going 3-9 against such opponents, two of whom are currently in the top 10 (No. 5 Virginia and No. 8 Mississippi State). The Eagles are led by senior Gabriel Cucalon, who has an impressive record in singles competition. After opening the season 0-3 behind losses at Campbell, Duke and UNC Asheville, Cucalon has won nine-straight singles matches, seven of them in straight sets.
After their match Thursday, the Irish will remain in Durham to face the Blue Devils (8-11, 2-6 ACC). After dropping three-straight conference matches against Georgia Tech, No. 22 Miami Florida and No. 5 Virginia, Duke snapped its skid with a 4-1 win against Louisville in Kentucky. Notre Dame is the first of four matches that Duke faces in its regular season-ending four match home-stand. The Blue Devils are led by junior Nick Stachowiak, who is ranked 75th nationally in singles. Stachowiak is 13-7 on the season.
To conclude the road trip, Notre Dame will travel to Raleigh on Sunday to take on North Carolina (13-4, 5-2 ACC). The Tar Heels have won five of their last six matches, most recently posting a 6-1 rout of Florida State in Chapel Hill. North Carolina, like Notre Dame, will play two more games before Sunday’s match, hosting No. 23 North Carolina State on Wednesday and Boston College on Friday. The Tar Heels are led by their elite doubles paring of junior William Blumberg and senior Blaine Boyden, who earned the title of ACC Men’s Tennis Doubles Team of the Week on Tuesday afternoon. The pair have gone 11-2 on the season and are currently riding a seven-game win streak, going 9-1 in their last 10 matches.
The road trip will conclude regular season travel for the Irish. After they return from North Carolina, their regular season will finish with a three-game home-stand against Georgia Tech, Clemson and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Match time Thursday in Durham is scheduled for 2 p.m.