By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team split the two matches of a doubleheader Sunday, falling in the first contest to No. 17 Illinois 5-2 before defeating Detroit Mercy 7-0 in the nightcap at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
How It Happened
The Irish got off to a quick start with an energetic approach to doubles, dominating at the first two positions to claim the doubles point in less than 30 minutes. In near simultaneous finishes, sixth-ranked senior pair Josh Hagar and Eddy Covalschi defeated Gui Gomes and Aron Hiltzik 6-1 at the No. 1 spot, while sophomore Alex Lebedev and freshman Matt Gamble clinched the point with a 6-1 victory over Julian Childers and Alex Jesse by the same score at No. 2.
The Illini proved a more even matchup in singles as the teams split first sets 3-3. Illinois pulled even, however, as No. 31 Aleks Vukic defeated the 34th-ranked Hagar, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 1. Notre Dame regained the lead at 2-1 when Lebedev downed Gui Gomes 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 3 position.
Illinois again tied the match when No. 21 Aron Hiltzik defeated Covalschi on Court 2, 6-2, 6-2. The remaining three matches went into third sets, but
After winning the first set, Gamble was unable to close out a decision against Aleks Kovacevic on Court 4, falling 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 as Illinois went up 3-2. The Illini clinched the match at 4-2 as Julian Childers defeated sophomore Grayson Broadus 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 at the No. 5 position. The Illini got the final point at No. 6 as Zeke Clark upended freshman Guillermo Cabrera 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
The Irish earned the doubles point, again with wins at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots. Hagar and freshman partner Johnathan Small picked up the first decision, 6-3, over Chance Conley and Nathan Ponton on Court 2, while Broadus and junior Brendon Kempin clinched the point with a 6-2 victory over Artem Vasheshnikov and Patryk Koscielski on Court 1.
Notre Dame went up 2-0 with the first collegiate dual singles win for freshman Conor Somers, who defeated Conley 6-3, 6-2 at No. 6 singles. He was followed by sophomore Daniel Rayl, who made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Kacper Stelmaszak at the No. 4 position. Kempin clinched the victory for the Irish with a 6-1, 7-5 decision over Adam Zychowicz.
Lebedev earned his second singles win of the day in a 6-2, 7-5 decision over Vasheshnikov at the No. 1 slot, while Small picked up a 6-2, 6-4 win over Ponton at No. 3. Gamble completed the sweep with a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) win over Koscielski.
On facing adversity against Illinois...
“This morning was a tough match. Illinois is a really good team and, quite honestly, what showed itself to me was that (Illinois was) tougher in the biggest moments of the closest matches. I think part of that is because this was really our first 50-50 match. We’re two hours into the match and it’s dead even and Illinois has been in a couple of those this year. I thought the experience of that showed. We need to learn from the Illinois match and be a lot better in terms of handling adversity and going out and executing our best stuff and not play with as much tightness in those big moments moving forward. We’re going to be in a lot of tight matches similar to that, but I’m really proud of the guys coming back tonight and playing a pretty talented and energetic Detroit team. Our guys handled it well and played well.”
On lessons to take from the Illinois match…
“When you’re playing good teams and you’re in a position where you have momentum on your side, they’re players aren’t just going to go away. They’re going to fight and make a run at you and you have to have the courage and confidence to gather yourself and make a run right back at them. I felt like we got punched today in a couple spots and didn’t punch back. We have to do that moving forward to be successful against the schedule we’re going to play.”
The Irish will be back in action next Sunday when they welcome Indiana for a 12 p.m. ET matchup at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
#17 Illinois 5, #RV Notre Dame 2
February 12, 2017
Eck Tennis Pavilion
1. No. 31 Aleks Vukic (UI) def. No. 34 Josh Hagar (ND) 6-3, 6-1
2. No. 21 Aron Hiltzik (UI) def. Eddy Covalschi (ND) 6-2, 6-2
3. Alex Lebedev (ND) def. Gui Gomes (UI) 6-3, 6-3
4. No. 123 Aleks Kovacevic (UI) def. Matt Gamble (ND) 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
5. Julian Childers (UI) def. Grayson Broadus (ND) 3-6, 6-0, 6-2
6. Zeke Clark (UI) def. Guillermo Cabrera (ND) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
1. No. 6 Eddy Covalschi / Josh Hagar (ND) def. Gui Gomes / Aron Hiltzik (UI) 6-1
2. Matt Gamble / Alex Lebedev (ND) def. Julian Childers / Alex Jesse (UI) 6-1
3. Grayson Broadus / Brendon Kempin (ND) vs. Aleks Kovacevic / Aleks Vukic (UI) 4-4, unfinished
#RV Notre Dame 7, Detroit 0
February 12, 2017
Eck Tennis Pavilion
1. Alex Lebedev (ND) def. Artem Vasheshnikov (DET) 6-2, 7-5
2. Matt Gamble (ND) def. Patryk Koscielski (DET) 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2)
3. Johnathan Small (ND) def. Nathan Ponton (DET) 6-2, 6-4
4. Daniel Rayl (ND) def. Kacper Stelmaszak (DET) 6-1, 6-2
5. Brendon Kempin (ND) def. Adam Zychowicz (DET), 6-1, 7-5
6. Conor Somers (ND) def. Chance Conley (DET) 6-3, 6-2
1. Grayson Broadus / Brendon Kempin (ND) def. Artem Vasheshnikov / Patryk Koscielski (DET) 6-2
2. Josh Hagar / Johnathan Small (ND) def. Chance Conley / Nathan Ponton (DET) 6-3
3. Drew Dawson / Nathan Griffin (ND) vs. Kacper Stelmaszak / Adam Zychowicz (DET) 3-5, unfinished
-- ND --
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, and earned her master's degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.