Irish men’s tennis gears up for ACC Tournament
Matthew Crow | Wednesday, April 20, 2022
After closing out the regular season with consecutive wins against Boston College and Depaul, Notre Dame men’s tennis will travel to Rome, Georgia for the ACC Tournament this week. The Irish (16-11, 5-7) earned the No. 9 seed in the tournament. They will play their first match against No. 8 Florida State (15-9, 5-7) on Thursday.
Notre Dame enters the tournament after an up-and-down ACC regular-season slate that saw them struggle at times with consistency. They got off to a strong 4-2 start in conference play that included a win against then-No. 25 Miami. Following the hot start, the Irish suffered five consecutive losses during a challenging stretch of their schedule, with each of those matches against teams in the top six of the ACC standings. Notre Dame turned things around in their final conference match, a dominant 7-0 win on the road against Boston College, and they will hope to build on that performance as they turn their attention to the Seminoles.
Notre Dame has experience against Florida State. The Seminoles defeated the Irish in a tight 4-2 match in South Bend earlier this season. The Irish will be looking for a different result this time around. A major factor will be Notre Dame’s play in doubles, which has been somewhat of a weakness for the team this year. The Irish have won 53% of their doubles matches on the season, and just 41% in ACC play. Compared to 61% and 49% win rates in singles, it’s been a struggle. Florida State won the doubles point during the teams’ first meeting by earning victories on courts No. 1 and 2, and Notre Dame was unable to recover from the early deficit. Taking the doubles point on Thursday would greatly improve the Irish’s chances of advancing to the next round.
In singles, the marquee matchup will come on court No. 1, as Notre Dame senior Axel Nefve, ranked No. 63 nationally, will likely face off against Florida State junior Loris Pourroy, ranked No. 44. Pourrey picked up a hard-fought 7-6, 6-4 victory when the players met earlier in the year, and Nefve will be looking for revenge on the postseason stage. The matchup is pending Nefve’s injury status. The senior retired from his match on March 25 against Duke, and he hasn’t played since. Head coach Ryan Sachire told The Observer that Nefve is “working towards playing on Thursday.”
Notre Dame has also seen strong play from juniors Connor Fu and Matthew Che throughout the course of the season. Both players enter the tournament having won three consecutive matches. Every point will matter as Notre Dame and Florida State appear to be extremely evenly matched, and Fu and Che continuing their hot stretch of play would be crucial for the Irish.
Looking ahead, the path to an ACC championship will be a difficult one for Notre Dame, as a win against Florida State would earn them a match against No. 1 seed Virginia in the quarterfinals on Friday. Virginia earned a first-round bye after finishing a perfect 12-0 in conference play, and the Cavaliers currently sit at No. 6 in the nation, highest in the ACC. Virginia defeated Notre Dame 6-1 in Charlottesville when the teams met in early March, but the Irish have shown themselves to be an improved squad since then. The other top-four seeds in the tournament are Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Louisville, all teams that defeated Notre Dame during the regular season. The Irish will likely face some combination of these teams if they advance beyond Virginia.
Notre Dame, ranked No. 34 nationally, has hopes of using a strong performance in Georgia this week to secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Irish ranked an identical No. 34 entering the ACC Tournament and, despite falling in their first match, did earn a bid to the NCAAs. The Irish will look to make a final boost to their resume with a deep run in the tournament this week.
Notre Dame will take on Florida State at 10 a.m. on Thursday at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. If the Irish advance, the following rounds will each be at 10 a.m. on Friday through Sunday.