Jan. 13, 2014
The 2012-13 season saw the crowning of the Irish as BIG EAST Champions for the ninth time, but everything will change this year as Notre Dame moves to the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Although the team fell in the first round of the NCAA Championship last year, with many veteran players returning (including the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players), newly-named head coach Ryan Sachire has high hopes for this season.
Last year, the Irish went 19-8 on the season, beating nine nationally ranked foes. The team took down St. John’s, Marquette and 50th-ranked Louisville to win the BIG EAST title before falling to 37th-ranked University of Washington in the first round to finish the season ranked 28th in the country.
Former head coach Bobby Bayliss was honored as BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the eighth time. Junior Greg Andrews was named BIG EAST Player of the Year for the second time and freshman Quentin Monaghan was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year.
Notre Dame graduated two seniors from its singles lineup—Blas Moros and Michael Moore. But one of the strengths of this team entering the spring, according to Sachire, is the return of the top two players of last year’s successful team: Andrews and Monaghan.
Additionally, Sachire remarks on the depth of his team. A productive fall revealed just how many players could step in and compete in dual match play.
“We had five guys in the round of 16 at the regional championships,” says Sachire. “But our entire fall was good. We had a lot of guys step up and get great wins. My No. 1 goal for the team for the fall was to see each player improve significantly this fall. And they all made that jump.”
Specifically, Sachire mentions senior Billy Pecor, who went 10-9 in the No. 4 singles spot last year but could look to step up higher in the lineup. Sophomore Kenny Sabacinski is also another player who has come a long way since his freshman season, having stayed at Notre Dame to work on his game over the summer and then collected more wins than any other Irish player during the fall.
The team is split equally as there are seven upperclassmen and seven underclassmen. But with five sophomores and two freshmen all in the conversation for playing time, Sachire grants that this is a young team with a lot of depth.
“They’re good. Sachire says We’re lucky to be able to rely on our younger classes.”
Last year’s third graduated player was Spencer Talmadge, a doubles specialist who went 83-54 in doubles during his time at Notre Dame. He also went 6-9 with Andrews in the No. 1 doubles spot for much of last season. The other pair who played in the top spot was sophomore Alex Lawson and Pecor.
During the fall season, Andrews and Lawson paired up in the Midwest Regional Championships and found themselves in the finals. Although they lost to the No. 2 seed from Ohio State, the pair experienced a great deal of success for a first-time doubles team.
Sachire says that it is a strength of the team’s doubles lineup that either Pecor and Lawson or Andrews and Lawson could take the top spot this season. These options make for more flexibility when filling out the rest of the order.
There will be a lot of adjusting this season as the Irish enter the ACC, and a daunting schedule awaits the team in the spring.
“If you factor in what could be the toughest conference in the country with the fact that our out of conference play will include Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky—all of whom are great teams—and USC, which has won four of the last five national championships. Our schedule is tough. We have to live the old adage of one day at a time, because if you start looking down the road, you can get a little overwhelmed,” Sachire explains.
Among Notre Dame’s opponents for the spring season are Ohio State, which was in the semifinals of the National Championship last year, and Virginia, which played in the finals.
Sachire says these challenges are both beneficial and exciting the for young team, however, explaining that tougher opponents increase the quality of a team and the enjoyment the players will receive from each match.
The spring season kicks off this Firyda, Jan. 17 against William & Mary at 5:30 p.m. at home in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
--Lauren Chval, Media Relations Assistant