After rough start, Irish season interrupted with promising second half looming
Dominic Gibson | Friday, May 15, 2020
Despite a slow start to the spring season, the Notre Dame men’s tennis team looked poised to have a strong end of the year and a better second stanza before all matches were canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The men sat at a 6-7 record overall with a 2-1 conference record, having played several tight matches along the way against high caliber opponents, including the likes of Michigan (14-3, 1-0 Big Ten) and Virginia (11-4, 2-1 ACC).
Irish head coach Ryan Sachire was pleased with the efforts of his team and the fight they showed despite their bogged-down start to the beginning of the season.
“We’re very proud of the fact that despite some results and performances that weren’t up to our standard early in the season, our guys stayed very positive and only dug in more, and I’m very convinced we were going to have a very strong end of the season and second half of our year,” Sachire said. “In terms of where we can improve, it’s certainly I think doing a little bit better early in the year. Our focus is going to be on putting our guys in a position where, coming out of the gates in January and early February, we’re playing at a better level than we did this past year in hopes of building some momentum, building some confidence, building some wins to begin the year.”
Helping to lead the charge for the Irish this season was junior Richard Ciamarra who was recently named an ITA All-American. En route to the achievement, Ciamarra racked up a 20-8 record on the season, beating 12 ranked opponents and peaking at No. 5 in the country before ultimately ending the season ranked No. 8 in singles.
“Clearly he worked hard. He’s worked hard throughout his entire career that’s kind of built to this level,” Sachire said. “I think the biggest contributing factor to him making the jump to where he did this year was just his mental toughness. There were a number of matches throughout the season where he was down, whether it was down a set or down a break in the third set, and just kept battling, kept fighting and found a way to win. When you do that one or two times, you begin believing in yourself that you can do anything and come back from any deficit that you face.”
The solid doubles play of the Irish was another driving force for the team as they continued to find success this season, Sachire said, and is something that has been of central focus for the team year after year.
“Doubles is something we’ve established our program as being elite in, and it’s something that we emphasize every day in practice and work on,” he said. “Combine that with the fact that our guys are good tennis players and we do emphasize doubles quite a bit. It is something that we take a great deal of pride in.”
The Irish had four senior players on their roster this season, and while the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility, only one will be returning: Matt Gamble. Guillermo Cabrera, Johnathan Small and Conor Somers will be moving on but will be leaving a lasting legacy for the team.
“Each of them played different roles in our program,” Sachire said. “I think of the consistent themes across all three guys, and the legacy that they’re leaving as a group certainly is that, number one, they’re great guys, but beyond that, it was a very consistent class in terms of coming to practice every single day with a good work ethic, the right attitude and being present every single day.”
Looking ahead to next season, Sachire said he is optimistic that the squad he has returning will be a top-10 caliber team, especially if they are able to put in the hard work to do so.