March 3, 2014
As the Notre Dame men’s tennis team crosses the halfway point of its 2014 spring season, head coach Ryan Sachire sits down to talk about what kind of growth they have seen in these past few months. The Irish have taken down four higher-ranked teams and gone up against the No. 1 team in the country twice already this season. Every match is an opportunity for growth and to, as Sachire says, further this team’s “belief” in itself.
Lauren Chval (Notre Dame Media Relations): What kind of identity has this team established for itself?
Ryan Sachire (Men’s Tennis Head Coach): The groundwork for the success we have had in our dual matches so far began in the fall—potentially even before that. I have talked a lot earlier in the season about how, for this group of guys and this team, big winning last year’s BIG EAST Championship was. This was something that group had not done in their time at Notre Dame. That was extremely important and it taught the guys and gave them an example in their own lives of success. They set a goal ahead of time at the beginning of the season and then went out and achieved it. Winning the BIG EAST tournament was a huge goal for the team last year. That gave them confidence as a group, which then carried over into hard work and continue to gain belief and self confidence throughout the summer. Since the arrival of our two new assistant coaches and our two new freshman in the fall, those four individuals have done nothing but add to the culture that we created last year and have taken it to a whole new level. All four of them—Adam [Schaechterle], Cris [James], Josh [Hagar] and Eddy [Covalschi]—have given so much and added so much to our program. Winning the first match at Kentucky was a big one because that qualified us for the National Team Indoors and was our first win over a top-10 team. I felt like the next win against Kentucky revalidated our first win. Also, being able to win two games at national team indoors really firmly cemented in our team’s mind that we are capable of being a very elite team on a given day and when we do our right things with our preparation and our competitiveness, we can be pretty good.”
The motto for the season has been belief. You have seen so many positive results in this first half of the season, so do you see belief more inherently in your team now?
RS: I talked to our team a couple weeks ago. The pathway to climbing the ladder of success has three levels: hope, belief and knowledge. You have to start out with, “I hope I can achieve at this level,” which you start to do. When you believe you can, but maybe there is still a little bit of doubt creeping if you can do it consistently. And then there is knowledge, which is the final stage. I don’t know if we have reached that final stage at our sport right now, but we are at a higher level than we were at the beginning of the season. I think we are working up that ladder of belief towards knowledge against anybody that we play. That will be the challenge as we move forward, and the only way to keep continuing to climb that ladder is to keep continuing to build confidence. It starts with how hard we work and how much our players are committed to this program. The more you invest, the more you begin to feel like you deserve it. You start to believe you are going to accomplish things before they happen.
LC: How has the support of the Notre Dame community been different this season, especially considering that nearly 500 fans showed up for the match against No. 1 Ohio State?
RS: It has been great. That has been a big goal of mine as the years progress to get crowds of 500-1,000 people here on a consistent basis. Obviously it starts with the product on the court and the fire, intensity and the passion that our team competes with. Our fans want to come to the matches because of what’s on the court. The more we can continue to grow on that and build on that, the better off we are going to be in attracting those types of crowds. Our promotion departments and our Notre Dame community have done an amazing job of responding to these players and showing the support they deserve.
LC: How do you see this team moving forward into the Atlantic Coast Conference with this tough schedule?
RS: I think it’s great because we found out with Virginia Tech that when you get into conference games, every single set and match is going to be a dogfight. You have to bring your best level every single day mentally and physically, and when you know what you need to do on match day, it makes it so much easier to pull it out of yourself on practice days. You get to a point were you ultimately treat every day the same. Whether it’s practice, whether it’s a match, everyday your mindset is the same and that is, “I’m a great tennis player and my purpose is to be the best I can be on that given day,” and you adopt that philosophy.
LC: With so much history between Notre Dame and USC, how is traveling to play them on the road a great point for this team to hit in the middle of the season?
RS: They can’t wait. We schedule the match to play on the whole football rivalry, and based on football, we have that inherent rivalry. This is a great opportunity for our team. USC has won four of the last five national championships, and they are certainly one of the marquee programs—if not the marquee program—in our sport. This is a program that we try to learn from and emulate, and we hope one day to be considered along the same level as them. For our guys, it’s a great opportunity for them to see how much we can grow in the next 10 days. We have been competing a lot the first half of the semester, and a lot of times you develop competitive skills when you compete a lot, but fundamentals break down if you don’t have the chance to practice as much as you want to practice. So these next 10 days give us a chance to go back and work on some technique and work on some fundamentals and hopefully build on the games that our kids have been successful with so far this season. And hopefully we can iron out a couple wrinkles that they can build on the rest of the year and against both USC and the rest of the ACC matches.