Jan. 30, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — There’s no doubt the Notre Dame men’s tennis team is built to compete — and do so closely — with the strongest teams in the country. Certainly, the 14th-ranked Irish will take wins any way they can get them.
Still, after seeing another match come down to the final two heart-stopping matches on the court, the 14th-ranked Irish also think they’re overdue for a breather.
Notre Dame defeated No. 30 Northwestern, 4-3, on Friday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion, another match in a series of 4-3 or 4-2 decisions to start the season. But it was also indicative of the recent series with the Wildcats, who took the Irish to four third sets in singles, including four singles sets and one doubles match decided in tiebreakers.
“We knew it was going to be another match like we’ve had (so far this season),” head coach Ryan Sachire said. “We played the same kind of match last year at their place. There’s just a lot of parity in college tennis and we’re in that pack of teams that’s pretty darn good and fortunately for us, there are a lot of teams on our schedule who are also pretty darn good. We’re going to have good opportunities down the road to be in competitive matches like this and I think we take a lot of pride in our toughness, our grittiness and that means our ability to execute and play our best tennis in the biggest moments.”
It was a hard-won doubles point for the Irish, as eighth-ranked Billy Pecor and Alex Lawson came from behind to win 6-4 over Fedor Baev and Strong Kirchheimer at No. 1 after Quentin Monaghan and Eric Schnurrenberger fell to Mihir Kumar and Alp Horoz at No. 3. At the second double slot, No. 9 Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar let a set lead slip into a 6-6 tie, but the pair overcame a 2-5 deficit in the tiebreaker to defeat Alex Pasareanu and Sam Shropshire, 7-6 (6).
The Irish got another quick point early in singles play as No. 4 player Schnurrenberger made quick work of Mihir Kumar, 6-4, 6-4, but things slowed down as matches at No. 1, 2, 5 and 6 went into third sets. At No. 3 singles, Eddy Covalschi fell to Logan Staggs, 4-6, 4-6, while Alex Lawson couldn’t corral the momentum from a first-set tiebreaker win and lost to Horoz at No, 6, 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 2-6, which tied the team score at 2-all.
Pecor, who needed an 8-6 tiebreaker in the first set, lost the second and rallied for an impressive 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-5 victory over Baev in the No. 5 slot. The win helped the senior maintain an undefeated singles record this season and gave the Irish a 3-2 lead with Nos. 1 and 2 left on the court.
“(Pecor) is a guy who didn’t play a whole of singles matches for us last year, but is back in his final year,” Sachire said. “He’s won some big matches for us earlier in his career and we all know it means a lot for him to be out there and he wanted to make a contribution to our singles lineup this year and he’s done a whale of a job.”
On opposite sides of the Eck Tennis Pavilion, Monaghan and Hagar continued battling for the final team point. At No. 2, Hagar, who dropped the first set to Kirchheimer before snagging the second in a dramatic tiebreaker, battled from a 4-3 deficit to tie it at 5-all in the third set.
But it was the 37th-ranked Monaghan who clinched it for the Irish with a marathon win of his own over Shropshire. The junior grabbed a one-set lead before racing to a 5-1 advantage in the second. He couldn’t hold the lead, however, and dropped the second set in a tiebreaker. After going down 2-1 in the final set, Monaghan wrested control and sealed the match with the final game on the break.
“I was playing some good tennis, but he just came up with some better tennis down the stretch (of the second set),” Monaghan said. “It’s what you’ve got to expect from guys when they’re down; they’re going to play their best tennis. … It’s not easy to go down after being up like that, but I just stayed calm and it was just fun to pull out the third.”
Though the win for the Irish was already decided, the No. 2 singles match was completed and Hagar fell, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 5-7.
The Irish (3-1) get a quick turnaround and welcome No. 8 Illinois for a 5 p.m. match on Monday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. For the latest updates, be sure to follow the Irish on Twitter, @NDMensTennis, and like Notre Dame Men’s Tennis on Facebook.
No. 14 Notre Dame 4, No. 30 Northwestern 3
1. No. 37 Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. Sam Shropshire (NU), 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4
2. No. 108 Strong Kirchheimer (NU) def. No. 82 Josh Hagar (ND), 6-2, 6-7 (7-9), 7-5
3. Logan Staggs (NU) def. Eddy Covalschi (ND), 6-4, 6-4
4. Eric Schnurrenberger (ND) def. Mihir Kumar (NU), 6-2, 6-2
5. Billy Pecor (ND) def. Fedor Baev (NU), 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-5
6. Alp Horoz (NU) def. Alex Lawson (ND), 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 6-2
-By Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant