Irish finish homestand by dominating Marquette
Greg McKenna | Monday, March 22, 2021
No. 46 Notre Dame (9-7, 3-3 ACC) bounced back from a narrow loss against top-ranked North Carolina with a 6-1 win over Marquette (6-5, 0-0 ACC) Friday afternoon at the Courtney Tennis Center.
After winning two of their last three home matches in Eck Tennis Pavilion, Notre Dame closed out a four-match homestand in dominant fashion. After a three-match losing streak in mid-February, the Irish have now won four of their last five.
Notre Dame head coach Ryan Sachire said that despite being short-handed in February losses against Middle Tennessee, Wake Forest and NC State due to injuries, the Irish paved the way for their current run of form with solid performances from those who could play in those losing efforts.
“We’ve been building, quite honestly, since then,” said Sachire. “And in our sport, man, there’s no substitute for repetition. And there’s no substitute for actually playing matches.”
Sachire also said he was grateful for the chance to play a first home match outdoors ahead of this weekend’s Florida road trip, which features matchups against Florida State and Miami.
“There’s a significant difference between indoor tennis and outdoor tennis,” he said. “That was really important for us, to get that match experience outdoors and hopefully fast forward our adjustment to outdoor tennis a little bit quicker than then we get in most seasons.”
Against the Golden Eagles Friday, Notre Dame grabbed the doubles point with relative ease. Senior Richard Ciamarra and sophomore Matthew Che won 6-0 in the two-spot before senior Tristan McCormick and junior Axel Nefve, the preseason 19th-ranked doubles pair in the country, picked up a 6-3 victory at the top of the doubles ladder.
The Irish won five of the six singles matches, with four victories coming in straight sets.
Ciamarra, the preseason No. 6 player in the nation, got a break from his usual spot atop Notre Dame’s singles ladder.
Instead, Nefve — a 2019 All-ACC Second Team selection — romped to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Marquette No. 1 and redshirt sophomore Fran San Andres.
Sachire said Nefve, who Tennis Recruiting Network rated a five-star blue-chip recruit, has always been a tremendous returner and runner of the baseline but has become increasingly dominant by becoming more aggressive with his groundstrokes and as a server.
“And so, prior to this year, he was really, really solid and consistent every single point, but maybe didn’t have the dynamic offensive capabilities and dynamic weapons to control points against really good players,” said Sachire. “And now, he’s added that to his game. When he’s serving, he’s in control of what’s going on and getting a lot of cheap and easy points with his serve and with his offensive tennis.”
The only Irish loss came at the two-spot, where redshirt junior Golden Eagle Luis Heredia Gomez beat McCormick 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Che was forced to grind out his win at the three-spot after dropping the first set, eventually prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 after a super-set tiebreaker against Marquette redshirt freshman Stefan Dragovic.
Sachire said it was rewarding to see Che, who is still relatively inexperienced at the collegiate level after having his spring freshman season cut short due to COVID-19, win a close match after some narrow losses earlier this year.
“I think he’s been doing a really good job this year [and] playing at a high level,” he said. “[He] lost some really close matches, and a lesser competitor would maybe get down and kind of lose confidence from not getting those results. He has not had that happen to him.”
Notre Dame dominated the bottom half of the ladder. Sophomore Connor Fu only dropped one game over two sets at the four-spot, while graduate student Brandon Ancona and senior William Howells also won in straight sets at the five and six spots, respectively.
After nearly a three-week break from conference play, the Irish will return to ACC action this weekend vs. the Seminoles and Hurricanes on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The Seminoles currently linger just outside the Oracle ITA Top-50 and are coming off a narrow Friday loss to #21 UCF on Friday. No. 50 Miami won Saturday against No. 29 USF and will host Louisville Wednesday before welcoming the Irish.
Sachire said he’s always excited to travel to the Sunshine State to take on two historic rivals of Notre Dame. Though both famous rivalries have their roots on the gridiron, he said the intensity of the respective matchups is felt across all sports.
“It’s gonna be fun to hit the road again, get down there and deal with a little bit of the elements with the heat and wind that we’ll expect to have,” Sachire said. “And the crowds there can be tough sometimes, and that’s also fun, to embrace that.”
First serve in Tallahassee and Coral Gables is scheduled for 5:30 p.m and 11 a.m, respectively.