Irish men’s tennis hopes to continue hot start in Kentucky

It’s a new season for Notre Dame men’s tennis. Following a mediocre season last year, the Irish are looking for improvement both in and out of ACC play this year. Irish head coach Ryan Sachire and his team — filled with savvy veterans and some high-flying freshmen — know that this weekend presents a key opportunity to showcase that improvement.

The Irish have gotten off to a blazing start this season, crushing DePaul and IUPUI on Jan. 13, sweeping Chicago State on the road and winning a 4-3 thriller against Western Michigan last week at Eck Tennis Pavilion. Their lone defeat came against Northwestern on Jan. 15 in Evanston. 

The Irish will head to Lexington, Kentucky, this weekend to play in the Kentucky Regional of the ITA Kickoff. They are seeded No. 2 in the tournament and will take on No. 3 Washington on Friday at 5 p.m. in the opening round. The Irish last played Washington in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Championships. The Huskies won 4-3 in a match that lasted more than four hours.

Should the Irish prevail, they will play the winner of No. 1 Kentucky and No. 4 Liberty in the final. The victorious squad will earn a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championships. That tournament will be hosted by the University of Illinois in February. 

Notre Dame was last invited to the Kentucky Regional in 2014. That season, they would go on to qualify for the ITA National Indoor Championships. Overall, Sachire has brought the team to the competition three times during his tenure, most recently in 2019.

This weekend’s competition provides a premier opportunity for the Irish to continue their success this season and reach a milestone that they failed to last year. In a season which will be defined by momentum and consistency, playing in these sorts of big-stage matches before ACC play begins will be crucial for the team.


Irish look to start strong in conference play

Notre Dame men’s soccer will begin conference play this weekend with a top-25 matchup against No. 24 Syracuse this Saturday. The No. 22 Irish will enter the contest at 1-1-1 following a closely contested 1-1 draw against DePaul at Alumni Stadium this week.

The Orange have got off to a blistering start with 3 wins in their first four contests and outscoring opponents 9-1 in those four games. Notre Dame’s defense will have its hands full with sophomore forward Nathan Opoku and senior forward Levonte Johnson, who was on the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. The Hermann Trophy is given to the top men’s and women’s college soccer player each year. In particular, Opoku has had a blistering start to the season, leading the team with two goals and two assists in his first four games.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame has underperformed to start this season. Following their College Cup appearance last year, they’re winless in their first two home games, both against unranked, non-conference opposition. Their only win came away from home, where they nearly squandered a 3-0 lead against Michigan State but held on to win 3-2.

On Tuesday night, they needed a late equalizer at home against DePaul to avoid another home loss. Head coach Chad Riley spoke on how they can take the resilience they showed on Tuesday night into their matchup with Syracuse.

“I think the biggest thing tonight was the mentality,” said Riley. “The tide was against us, but the guys kept fighting back and eventually got the tying goal and had chances to win it. So, we’re taking positives from the mentality-side of that.”

This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2020 when Notre Dame beat Syracuse 1-0 at Alumni Stadium. The Irish lead the all-time series 15-3-2.