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Men’s Tennis

Irish fall against ACC opponents Wake Forest, NC State

| Tuesday, April 5, 2022

No. 26 Notre Dame men’s tennis dropped a pair of matches at home over the weekend, losing 4-1 to No. 7 Wake Forest on Friday and 4-3 to No. 23 NC State on Sunday. The matches were a continuation of the team’s challenging ACC slate, as the Irish (14-10, 4-6) entered the weekend coming off a tough road trip, during which they were defeated by ranked opponents Duke and North Carolina.

On Friday, Notre Dame faced off against Wake Forest for the second time this year, having been defeated by the Demon Deacons 4-1 on the road in January. The Irish entered the match shorthanded, with graduate student Peter Conklin and senior Axel Nefve, ranked No. 53 nationally in singles and part of the No. 41 doubles pair, out with injuries. This gave Wake Forest an edge in doubles on paper, and they took full advantage of it.

On court No. 2, Notre Dame juniors Matthew Che and Connor Fu fell 6-2, and Wake Forest clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 victory on court No. 3 against the Irish’s Aditya Vashistha and Jameson Corsillo. Notre Dame’s Matthew Halpin and Jean-Marc Malkowski put in a strong effort on court No. 1 against Wake Forest’s top pairing, graduate students Eduardo Nava and Ben Draper, as they led 5-3 before the match was halted due to the Demon Deacons sealing the point.

Shifting into singles, a talented Wake Forest team continued to show why they are so highly ranked. They stretched their advantage to 2-0 after Notre Dame freshman Corsillo fell 6-2, 6-3 on court No. 6 in his first ACC appearance in singles. The Irish earned their lone win of the match with Fu’s 6-3, 6-3 victory on court No. 3, but Wake Forest stayed in command as Nava, ranked No. 34 in the nation in singles, defeated Vashistha, who was filling in for the injured Nefve, 6-3, 7-6 on court No. 1. Wake Forest then earned the decisive fourth point, as the Irish’s Braeden Ho dropped a hard-fought match by a score of 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 on court No. 5. With the Demon Deacons leading 4-1 and the outcome decided, the remaining two singles matches went unfinished.

On Sunday, the Irish met NC State for the first time this season in a tense battle that would last over three hours and come down to the final points. Notre Dame began the match with a much-improved doubles showing. On court No. 2, Conklin, having returned from injury, paired with Fu in a dominant 6-2 win. Soon after, the Irish pair of Che and Vashistha fell 6-3 on court No. 3 to even the doubles score at 1-1. On court No. 1, Notre Dame’s Halpin and Malkowski faced a difficult test against NC State’s Robin Catry and Luca Staeheli, the No. 19 ranked doubles pair in the nation. The Irish duo passed with flying colors, earning a crucial 6-4 win to hand Notre Dame the doubles point and a 1-0 lead.

That lead was quickly surrendered as NC State claimed the first three singles matches. The Wolfpack picked up wins against Notre Dame’s Ho (6-2, 6-3) on court No. 6, Conklin (7-6, 6-4) on court No. 4, and Fu (6-3, 3-6, 6-3) on court No. 3 to take a 3-1 advantage and pull within one victory of winning the match.

With the Irish down to their last breath, a pair of clutch performances kept them alive. On court No. 5, Malkowski, fresh off his strong doubles performance, fought for three sets to earn a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 win. Vashistha, playing on court No. 1 again, defeated the nation’s No. 82 ranked singles player, Rafa Izquierdo Luque, by a score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to level the score at 3-3.

In what would be the decisive match, Notre Dame’s Che took on NC State’s Luca Staeheli on court No. 2. After Staeheli took the first set by a narrow 7-5 margin, Che fought back to keep the Irish alive with a 6-4 win of his own, meaning that the match’s outcome would be determined by the final set. In a well-played set by both sides, Staeheli would emerge with a 6-3 victory, giving NC State a 4-3 win in the match.

The tough defeat at the hands of NC State made it four losses in a row for Notre Dame, and the Irish will look to turn things around as they play their last two conference matches of the season and make their final preparations for the upcoming ACC Tournament. Notre Dame will take on Louisville in a midweek home match on Wednesday at 4 p.m. before traveling to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College on Friday at 3 p.m.

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