Irish tennis claims impressive wins amidst busy weekend
Aidan Thomas | Tuesday, February 28, 2023
It was a busy weekend for both Notre Dame tennis programs. After several highly competitive days, the men’s team went 1-1, and the women’s team came out with a 2-1 record on the weekend. The 17th-ranked Irish women garnered their first ACC victory with a solid win over No. 29 Clemson and handled Chicago State with ease. Meanwhile, the men triumphed over Michigan State in a 4-3 instant classic on Monday evening. The women’s team lost though to No. 30 Georgia Tech, and the men dropped a Saturday clash with No. 4 Ohio State.
Women’s tennis splits to open ACC Play
Hosting No. 30 Georgia Tech to start their conference competition, the Irish got off to a hot start. Senior Page Freeman and freshman Bojana Pozder cruised at the top court in doubles, winning 6-3. However, the Irish faltered at the lower courts, dropping a pair of tiebreakers, ceding a 1-0 advantage to the Yellow Jackets.
Singles proved highly competitive, with four of the six courts going all three sets. Pozder was first to win, cleaning up at court No. 5 by a 6-3, 6-2 scoreline. Fellow freshman Akari Matsuno fell in straight sets on the sixth court. The top four courts all went the distance. At the top court, No. 81 Page Freeman gave No. 14 Carol Lee all she could handle, taking the first set. The final set went to a tiebreaker, but Freeman couldn’t complete the upset, dropping that tiebreak, 7-4. Sophomore Carrie Beckman also fell via a third-set tiebreak after winning the first set. A win from Yashna Yellayi over No. 108 Mahak Jain was not nearly enough for the Irish, who lost 5-2. It was certainly more competitive than the final score, as the Irish went 0-4 in decisive tiebreakers. Had they gone 2-2, they would have won the match.
Looking to avenge the opening ACC loss, the Irish came out strong against Clemson. The Tigers entered 11-1 and ranked No. 29, but the Irish took it to them from the first serve. Their three doubles duos left little doubt. Freeman and Pozder continued their strong form with a 6-2 victory, while Beckman and junior Julia Andreach won at the second court, 6-4. Yellayi and freshman Rylie Hanford matched that scoreline, winning their match nearly simultaneously. With the doubles point in hand, the Irish progressed to singles play, needing to win on three of the six courts.
They did that easily enough, winning on three of the top four courts to secure a 4-1 victory, evening up their conference record. The Irish split the early results, with Andreach winning 6-3, 6-4 at the second court. Yellayi lost 6-4, 6-3 on court No. 3. However, after Freeman lost her first set, 3-6, she responded by winning 12 straight games, completing a 3-6, 6-0, 6-0 victory. Beckman completed a similar comeback, winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. The pair of three-set victories pushed the Irish to win the match.
Notre Dame rested many of their top players against Chicago State but still cruised. They clinched a 4-0 win early, but they played out a pair of losses at the singles courts, ultimately winning 4-2. Matsuno and Hanford made up a strong freshman partnership at the top doubles court in this match, clinching the doubles point with a 6-2 victory. Graduate student Alex Kuo was part of the winning team at No. 3 doubles, and she also put forth a winning effort at No. 4 singles, helping secure two total points for Notre Dame. Sophomore Nibi Ghosh extended the lead to 3-0 by winning easily at the top court. Junior Meghan Coleman cemented the victory with a straight-sets win of her own.
The Irish women face a highly competitive weekend coming up. They’ll take on No. 10 Duke on Friday and No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday, looking to pull at least one major upset to maintain a .500 record in ACC play.
Men’s team succumbs to OSU, edges out Spartans
The Irish men saw their Thursday clash with top-5 Michigan canceled, but they still had an opportunity on the road versus No. 4 Ohio State. An upset was not to be, however, as the loaded Buckeyes lineup overwhelmed the Irish in a 7-0 victory. The Irish claimed just four total games in doubles play, losing the doubles point quickly to the Buckeyes. That put them in an unenviable position, needing to win four matches of six against an Ohio State lineup that featured five top-100 players.
The Irish couldn’t find victory in any single set, losing on all six courts in straight sets. 38th-ranked freshman Sebastian Dominko was the most competitive, dropping a 6-3, 6-4 decision at the top court. However, no other Irish player won more than three games in a set, and the battle with the Buckeyes was over in under three hours.
Monday’s home clash with Michigan State proved more entertaining, and Notre Dame flexed their strength at the lower courts to triumph over the Spartans. Despite Dominko and senior Connor Fu losing again at the top court of doubles (they entered the weekend with a 9-1 record), the Irish picked up wins at the second and third courts to claim the doubles point. Senior Matthew Che and junior Jean-Marc Malkowski earned the win at No. 2, and freshman Evan Lee partnered with sophomore Yu Zhang to claim victory on the third court.
However, despite entering singles with a 1-0 lead, the victory was anything but comfortable. Michigan State rode a strong top of their lineup to victory at the top two singles courts, immediately securing a 2-1 lead. Senior Connor Fu punched back with a straight-sets victory at No. 4 singles, evening up the match once more. The Spartans won a competitive three-setter on the fifth court, and Zhang returned the favor with a three-set victory of his own at Court No. 6.
That left the spotlight on Che at the third court. The senior, who recently had to miss a bit of time due to injury, battled through a lengthy clash at No. 3 singles. He won the first set via a tiebreaker but dropped the second one, 6-2. Late in the third set, Che broke to go up 6-5, giving himself a chance to serve for the win. Down 15-40 in that set, Che rallied one final time with an ace followed by two victorious rallies to secure the win. Notre Dame took down the Spartans, 4-3, improving to 8-4.
The Irish host No. 10 North Carolina and No. 22 Duke this weekend in search of their first ranked win of the season. They are 8-0 against competition outside the top 25 this season, but they remain 0-4 against ranked competition. First serve against North Carolina is at 4 p.m. on Friday.