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Holy Cross tennis eyes conference championships

Wednesday at noon, the Holy Cross College men’s and women’s tennis teams both got the news they had been waiting for all off-season: both teams placed in the top 25 of their respective NAIA Tennis Coaches’ Preseason Polls.

The men’s team leaped from No. 24 all the way to No. 16 and is now the highest-ranked team in the Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference.

The women’s team’s ranking is all the more impressive, jumping from unranked the season prior to No. 18, narrowly behind No. 17 Westcliff.

For head coach Eric Mahone, each team’s respective ranking is a validation of the program’s growth.

“Honestly, it was validation that coaches around the country are starting to notice us. In my opinion, we are better than that actually. But you are not going to just jump into the rankings when you are an unknown”.

By no means, though, is the program done growing. Mahone continues to have high expectations for his squads, which are jam-packed with talent.

“Our long-term goal is to win championships, and not just conference, but national.”

The men’s team is led by their two captains, senior Ryan Lee and junior Will Page. However, the captains are not the only two with talent on the team. Sophomore Perry Gregg earned a First-Team All-American nod last year as a freshman.

Gregg is one of many star underclassmen. Mahone noted as well that members of this year’s first-year class are more than capable of earning starting positions on the team.

“Luca McManus, he will start off playing number two for us. We were really hoping Hugh O’Sullivan would be in our top-three spot — he was actually the Irish national champion — but he is currently still injured, so we are waiting to see if he will be able to play. And our other two freshmen, Thomas [Friesen] and Polis [Koursaros], are both massively talented and will be competing for starting spots, as well”.

The team will be looking to build on last year’s success, where they went 13-8, which is the best record and win percentage (.619) in the young program’s history. Last season also saw the Saints post their best conference record at 5-1, with their only loss being to Cardinal Stritch.

The Saints then saw a successful postseason run, where they lost to Stritch again in the CCAC conference championship. This year, the team will look to take the next step and win the conference title. Do that, and they will also clinch an automatic berth to the NAIA national tournament.

The team will begin this semester when they play host to the University of Chicago on Saturday. The action is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. EST at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. 

While this year’s Holy Cross team is easily the most talented in the program’s history, there was a noticeable gap between Holy Cross and Cardinal Stritch last season. Holy Cross has closed the gap, but there is credit needed to beat the defending champs.

Men’s Prediction 

Overall Record: 11-4 (CCAC 5-1) 

Conference Finish: Second Place

The women’s team, meanwhile, has already kicked off their spring schedule when they faced off against Bowling Green University. Though the team lost 0-7, Mahone was impressed by the result.

“If you dig into the scores, it was actually pretty amazing. We performed much better than expected; we had really close matches, 1-4.”

Freshman Victoria Savvidou nearly lost her first set to Bowling Greens’ No. 1 player before losing her second 0-6. Junior Kia Carvalho-Landell took her match to three sets, winning the second set 2-6. Junior Helga Lopez also took her match to three sets, ultimately coming up in a contested third.

Savvidou, Carvalho-Landell and Lopez will be Holy Cross’s top three players, with all three more than capable of being the team’s number one player, according to Mahone.

“They are actually all interchangeable; we essentially have three number-one players. All three girls are ranked in the top 31 in the country. [Savvidou] is ranked twelfth, [Carvalho-Landell] is 24, and [Lopez] is thirty-first. And [Carvalho-Landell] and [Lopez] are ranked number four in the country in doubles.”

The women continue their non-conference play when they take on Lawrence Technological University on Feb, 4 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 2 p.m. EST. In the two prior meetings, LTU got the better of the Saints, winning 0-9 back in 2017 and 2-4 in 2021.

Like the men’s team, Holy Cross has improved from last season and is a genuine competitor for a CCAC title. However, Holy Cross lost to Cardinal Stritch and Olivet last season. It might be hard for the Saints to beat both back to back, which they would likely need to do to win the title. 

Women’s Prediction 

Overall Record: 10-7 (CCAC 4-2) 

Conference Finish: Third Place

Categories
Sports

Irish sweep four games in two days

Notre Dame women’s tennis were back in action this weekend as they hosted a series of matches in Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish were on a hot streak as they secured a win of all four matches, bringing their official team record to 4-0 on the season. 

The first matchup of the weekend was against Michigan State where the Irish won with an astounding 7-0, pulling in essential momentum for the weekend. Junior Julia Andreach and sophomore Carrie Beckman started the afternoon out in No. 3 double spots for the Irish (6-0). Page Freeman and freshman Bojana Pozder were at the No. 1 spot and freshman Rylie Hanford and junior Yashna Yellayi notched a 6-4 win at No. 2. 

Again, the singles matches sealed their victories, as Michigan State couldn’t win any match. Pozder was the only single player — at No. 5 — that needed a third set. But ultimately the Irish pulled through in time to play Butler only a few hours later. 

The Irish lost one of three total matches against Butler, but still triumphed over the Bulldogs. 

Notre Dame saw a switch up in their doubles for the second game of the night. While Hanford and Yellayi played together again in the No. 2 spot (6-0), sophomore Maria Olivia Castedo and freshman Akari Matsuno played in the No. 3 spot, securing the doubles win for the Irish (6-2). 

The singles win was not as easy against Butler as it was against Michigan State. Sophomore Nibi Ghosh won her match in two games at the No. 1 spot (6-1 ,7-6). While multiple matches had to go to three sets, the Irish were able to win out 5-1 in singles. The only Butler point came from Hanford’s match, where she went three rounds (6-4, 4-6, 6-3) 

Even with this slight hiccup, the Irish came back stronger than ever against Xaviar Sunday. Again, Notre Dame did not drop a single point. 

The doubles teams of Yellayi and Hanford (No. 2) and Beckman and Andreach (No. 3) were back in action, and they did not disappoint. The third spot team dominated with a 6-1 victory, while the second spot team struggled, but ultimately earned the point (7-6, 7-3).

Notre Dame again swept singles, this time with Freeman in the No. 1 spot (6-2, 6-3). Again, only one player saw a third set; this time it was Ghosh in the No. 3 spot. Other than Ghosh, two 6-3 matches was the closest Xavier came to winning a point. 

The fourth and final match of the weekend proved to be the toughest for the Irish. Against UIC, Notre Dame dropped two of the total three points on the weekend. Despite this, the Irish did not show their fatigue and they, again, pulled through, delivering a 4-0 victory. 

The first point for UIC was during the doubles matches. Andreach and Beckman won their match in the No. 1 spot, but Pozder and Castedo could not in the second. For the first time of the weekend graduate student Alez Kuo and junior Sydney Sforzo played together, but they could not bring in the victory needed. 

The other dropped point came in the top spot of singles, where Freeman went to three sets but ultimately fell to her opponent. The Irish, however, did not play any softer, and Notre Dame won four of the remaining five games straight, only needing a third set for junior Meghan Coleman’s win in the sixth spot. 

Head coach Alison Silverio was impressed with her team’s performance on the weekend.

“To come out and play four matches, two double headers. Is that easy, physically or mentally?” Silverio remarked. “It’s a total team effort. Everyone that was inside the lines to everyone that was outside the line was a full unit.”

The Irish not only showed commitment to their team, but an incredible sign of endurance playing four matches in two days. However, Notre Dame does not have an easy schedule ahead of them. 

Notre Dame faces No. 14 University of Southern California on Saturday. This past weekend showed how strong of a roster the Irish have, but next weekend will be a true test to their talent. 

The Irish will travel to Georgia where they will face off against the Trojans in a neutral site on Saturday, Jan 27 at 11 a.m. ET. 

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu