Aug 30, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The 2013-14 season will be full of many firsts for the University of Notre Dame men's tennis team as the campaign marks the first under new head coach Ryan Sachire as well as the first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The schedule offers many challenges for Sachire and the Irish as 18 of the 24 dual-match opponents advanced to the NCAA Championship last season. In addition, for the first time in school history Notre Dame will play a conference schedule as 11 ACC matches are found at the back half of the slate.
"We have 21 dates we are playing dual matches on and we face off with 18 NCAA teams during that time," said Sachire. "Not many teams can say that. It's pretty evident to me that this schedule is one of the hardest - if not the hardest - in the country."
Sachire has plenty of talent returning from the 2013 BIG EAST Championship squad to help him transition the program to the new league. Highlighting the group is two-time BIG EAST Player of the Year Greg Andrews and BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Quentin Monaghan. Also returning is all-BIG EAST performer Billy Pecor, regular singles contributors Wyatt McCoy and Ryan Bandy and doubles standouts Alex Lawson and Matt Dooley.
Notre Dame opens the spring season with three straight matches at Eck Tennis Center as William & Mary (Jan. 17), Michigan State (Jan. 19) and Toledo (Jan. 19) come calling.
The following week the Irish head to Lexington, Ky., for the annual ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Notre Dame will start with Minnesota (Jan. 24) before playing either the host Kentucky Wildcats or BYU the following day (Jan. 25)
A home match against Sweet 16 team Kentucky follows Feb. 2, before the Irish hit the road to face off against Big Ten foes Illinois (Feb. 5) and Northwestern (Feb. 11).
If the Irish advance through the Lexington regional of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, they would head to Houston, Texas for the ITA National Indoor Championships (Feb. 14-17). If they don't advance to Houston, the Irish would head to Ann Arbor, Mich., instead for a match against Michigan (Feb. 15) as long as the Wolverines don't qualify for Houston.
After a home doubleheader against Final Four team Ohio State and Ball State Feb. 22, the first ACC match gets underway as the Virginia Tech Hokies come to the Eck Feb. 28.
Notre Dame's first ACC road contest is a formidable one as it heads to Charlottesville, Va., and a date with defending national champion Virginia (March 2). The Cavaliers defeated UCLA, 4-3, last May to bring home their first NCAA crown.
From there the Irish head to Los Angeles, Calif., with Elite Eight team USC (March 13), before traveling to Clemson (March 21) and Georgia Tech (March 23) the following week.
Home matches against 2013 Elite Eight team Duke (March 28) and North Carolina (March 30) follow before two more league road contests at Wake Forest (April 4) and N.C. State (April 6).
The last three home matches of the regular season all come within three days of each other as Miami comes in April 11 followed by Florida State and Valparaiso for an April 13 doubleheader.
Notre Dame ends the regular season at Boston College April 19.
"Playing an ACC schedule is big for the program," said Sachire. "It gives us a natural crescendo to our season. In the past it was hard to find quality opponents during the second half of the year due to league play around the country. We would come out hot in January and February and then have gaps in our schedule during March and April. That won't happen anymore. The league schedule will test our players and offer a lot of excitement throughout the spring season."
The 2014 ACC Championship will be held in Cary N.C., April 24-27, with the NCAA Championship claiming most of May.
Notre Dame has appeared in 22 NCAA Championships all-time, with all 22 coming in the last 23 years under recently retired ITA Hall of Fame head coach Bobby Bayliss.
"Last year was a critical year for the program," said Sachire. "It was important for them to feel what it's like to win, to have that taste in their mouth. Now we are entering one of the top tennis conferences in the country. It is important we believe in ourselves and make sure we are ready for an incredible spring season."
Helping the Irish get ready for the spring season will be a busy fall slate that will offer Notre Dame plenty of opportunities to face off with some of the nation's top talent.
The Irish will squeeze in eight tournaments in just under two months with the first weekend set for Sept. 13-15 as several members of the team head back to the annual OFCC Invitational in Olympia Fields, Ill., while the other half of the squad returns to Western Michigan's Vredevelt Invitational in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Two weeks later select members of the Irish fly out to Tulsa, Okla., for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American Championships (Sept. 28-Oct. 6), while the remaining players will stay at Notre Dame for the newly renamed Bobby Bayliss Invitational (Oct. 4-6). Called the Tom Fallon Invitational since 1990 after legendary head coach Tom Fallon, the new tournament honors former Irish mentor and ITA Hall of Famer Bobby Bayliss, who retired following the 2013 season as the program's all-time leader in wins.
"Bobby is a fixture of the program and we wanted to recognize him for all he has done to elevate this program to new heights," said Sachire. "He left a legacy few in the sport can match. It's only fitting to name the tournament after him."
After the busy weekend, the Irish will train for two weeks for the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional Championships in Columbus, Ohio (Oct. 17-22). Last year the doubles team of Greg Andrews and Spencer Talmadge advanced to the finals of the doubles championship.
Less than a week later the team will split again as some head to the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational (Oct. 25-27), while the others will fly to Austin, Texas for the UT Invitational (Oct. 25-27). These two tournaments will represent the final fall competition for many Irish student-athletes.
However, one final fall tournament could be in store for any players that advance through the singles or doubles bracket at the Midwest Regional Championships. The USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships are for regional winners from throughout the country and will take place Nov. 7-10 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
While the schedule may be formidable, it should offer fans plenty of opportunities to see some of the best players in the country at Eck Tennis Center. With the Irish entering a new era under Sachire that combo should make for plenty of fireworks throughout the 2013-14 season.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director