March 6, 2018
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will look to leverage its nine-day break from competition when the Irish return to the court Wednesday in pursuit of a top-10 win over No. 6 Illinois at the Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Illinois.
Last Time Out
The Irish have had nine days between matches, enjoying a break after a stretch of five top-20 opponents in six matches. In their last weekend of action, the Irish dropped a razor-thin 4-3 decision to No. 13 Michigan that came down to a three-set match at No. 1 singles that went to tiebreakers in each set. The following Sunday, the Irish fell to No. 2 Ohio State 5-2, but bounced back to defeat Toledo 7-0 in the nightcap.
On The Illini
Illinois was up three spots to No. 6 in the most recent Oracle/ITA Division I Men’s National Team Rankings after sweeping then-No. 26 TCU and Virginia last weekend. Three of the team’s four losses came against top-10 opponents — No. 3 North Carolina (Feb. 3), No. 5 Stanford (Feb. 10) and No. 7 UCLA (Feb. 16). The team also lost to Kentucky, who the Irish defeated 4-3 on Jan. 21. The Illini also boast wins over No. 19 Duke (Feb. 2), No. 15 Duke (Feb. 17) and No. 11 Florida (Feb. 18).
The Illini are led by 17th-ranked Aleks Vukic (5-2 at No. 1), No. 50 Alex Brown (4-4 at No. 3) and No. 100 Aron Hiltzik (4-3 at No. 2), while Vukic and Hiltzik also rank at No. 67 in doubles (1-4 at No. 1).
Notre Dame is 24-27 in the all-time series against the Illini.
The Irish came in at No. 19 in this week’s Oracle/ITA Division I Men’s National Team Rankings, up two spots since last week’s poll release. The USTA Collegiate Rankings have not yet been released this week.
Junior Alex Lebedev moved up two spots, as well, to No. 33 in singles. Senior-freshman duo of Brendon Kempin and Tristan McCormick rank at No. 55 in doubles this week after debuting at No. 28 two weeks ago.
Freshmen Figuring In
The Irish have seen three of their four freshmen earn starting spots so far this season, with Tristan McCormick and Richard Ciamarra playing regularly in both singles and doubles and William Howells seeing regular time in the doubles lineup. Ciamarra leads the team with a 10-2 dual singles record, while also posting a 7-3 mark in doubles with sophomore partner Matt Gamble. McCormick is 5-7 in singles and 3-6 at No. 1 doubles, ranking at No. 55 with senior partner Brendon Kempin. Howells and junior partner Alex Lebedev are 3-3 in doubles on the season.
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 men's tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master's degree from Georgetown University in 2013.