By Joanne Norell
TULSA, Okla. — For the first time since 2002, the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis program has added a pair of doubles All-Americans to its all-time ranks.
Seniors Alex Lawson and Quentin Monaghan joined that elite group Friday, turning in a dramatic 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 10-8 victory over Tulane’s Chin-Shan Jao and Dominik Koepfer in the NCAA Doubles Championship Round of 16 at the Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa. By advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinal, the pair automatically earned All-American recognition.
“Obviously it was as close as it gets — 6-7, 7-6 and a breaker in the third,” Monaghan said. “Our coach told us that there would be a lot of momentum shifts and to stay calm and keep going with the process. I think that really paid off in the end, so it was big.”
In a match that featured three sets and three tiebreakers, the Irish found themselves in a hole after dropping the first set. The pair had taken a break lead early in the first, leading 4-2 before the Tulane duo broke back and eventually forced a tiebreaker. The teams traded points in the breaker, tying 5-5 before Jao and Koepfer snared the final two points to take the set.
A similar scenario played out in the second, as the Irish went up a break 3-2 before Jao and Koepfer responded to tie it back at 3-all. The teams held for the remainder of the set, with the Irish forcing the breaker in the stanza. The Irish took a 5-3 lead in the breaker, but Tulane scraped back to tie it at 6-all, but the Irish snared the next two points to force the decisive third-set tiebreaker.
With a first-to-10 set standing between them and the national quarterfinal, Lawson and Monaghan fell behind 7-4, but tallied the next three points to tie it back up. The Greenbacks picked up the next point to make it 7-8, but the Irish dug in for the final three points to punch their ticket to Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“That’s a really good team right there,” Lawson said. “Obviously we think we’re really good too, but just to battle them the way we did, I’m proud of how we competed when it came down to it in the big points.
“I think in a match like that, the difference — look at the scoreboard and it’s literally two points — in the first we were actually up a break, and I thought our game plan and how we played was better in the second, even though we didn’t get any breaks. We changed a few things, as far as where we were standing on returns, and then how we were playing our second serve points. It was just small adjustments like that.”
With the win, the Irish became just the second team in program history to advance to the NCAA quarterfinal. Andy Zurcher and Todd Wilson advanced to the NCAA semifinal in 1994. The last Irish players to earn doubles All-America honors were Casey Smith and Javier Taborga, who finished the year ranked No. 8 in 2002.
Monaghan became a two-time All-American, adding to his singles honor from last season and becoming the sixth multi-time All-American in program history. Lawson became the 19th distinct All-American in Irish history, earning his first scroll on his third trip to the NCAA Doubles Championship. The win was also Lawson’s 93rd of his career, putting him into a second-place tie on the all-time Irish doubles wins list (Greg Andrews).
The Irish will play California’s No. 9-ranked duo Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi at 1 p.m. ET Saturday.
“That was a really fun match to be a part of, extremely high level all the way through against a really tough team,” Lawson said. “We did probably the best job we ever have together of staying tough and with the process on those big points. It’s great to get the win in a match like that and move on, [and] our focus is on the next match now.”
2016 NCAA Singles & Doubles Championship
Case Tennis Center
Round of 64
No. 35 Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. No. 57 Strong Kirchheimer (NU) 6-4, 6-0
Round of 32
No. 6 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) def. No. 35 Quentin Monaghan (ND) 6-4, 6-1
Round of 32
No. 15 Alex Lawson / Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. No. 5 Korey Lovett / Mazen Osama (ALA) 6-4, 6-3
Round of 16
No. 15 Alex Lawson / Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. No. 18 Chin-Shan Jao / Dominik Koepfer (Tulane) 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 10-8
No. 15 Alex Lawson / Quentin Monaghan (ND) vs. No. 9 Filip Bergevi / Florian Lakat (CAL), 1 p.m. ET
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 women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, and earned her master’s degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.