Sophomore Josh Hagar

Lessons Learned, Irish Head Into ACC Championships With Confidence

April 22, 2015

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CARY, N.C. — If the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team learned anything throughout the course of its gauntlet of a season, it might have been just how much parity exists up and down the standings in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

For the No. 35 Fighting Irish, that meant close decisions nearly every weekend and taking their lumps to go with individual and team successes.

But it also taught the Irish, who will take a No. 7 seed into the ACC Championships on Thursday, they can play with any team in the league, something they intend to do as the postseason gets underway.

“We just came off three really tough 4-3 matches against really tough ACC opponents,” sophomore Josh Hagar said, noting Notre Dame’s most recent wins over Clemson and N.C. State and a loss in between to Wake Forest. “I think having won some of those, we can gain a lot of confidence, and even with the one we didn’t win, it means we’re looking to improve and I think in the past couple weeks of practice we’ve really done that and we’re really excited to get out there tomorrow.”

Notre Dame (14-10, 6-6 ACC) will take those lessons into its 9 a.m. EDT match with 10th-seeded Georgia Tech (12-11, 4-8 ACC) on Thursday at the Cary Tennis Center in Cary, North Carolina, and will look to replicate the complete match it registered against the Yellow Jackets in a 6-1 victory on March 22.

Which is not to suggest the 55th-ranked Georgia Tech will offer an easy path to the next round. Despite the lopsided score, head coach Ryan  Sachire noted that the teams’ last meeting was very competitive and the Yellow Jackets present their own problems. Georgia Tech closed out the regular season on Sunday with a 4-3 win over then-No. 5 Duke, its biggest upset in program history.

“There were a couple key moments in the doubles that helped get us off on the right foot,” Sachire said, referencing a comeback 8-4 win for Hagar and Eddy Covalschi at No. 2 doubles in the earlier match against Georgia Tech. “I think we kind of built some confidence from there and played well the rest of the match. The score may have been 6-1, but it was a close and competitive match and a lot is different.”

Indeed, the Irish and Yellow Jackets will meet outdoors on a neutral court, as opposed indoors on Notre Dame’s home turf.

Sachire noted it will take another complete match to secure its second win of the season over the Yellow Jackets, but said the Irish have gathered strength from their season finale win over N.C. State and are looking to make noise in the tournament.

“We had a really good weekend in terms of level of competition and getting that win over N.C. State gives the team some confidence,” Sachire said. “We know coming down here that Georgia Tech is a really good team and … we’re expecting them to give us their best shot and play at a high level, so we know what we have to do to be ready. But we feel loose; we feel confident and I think we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

“Every team in this tournament is good and you have to come out willing to give it your best,” Hagar added. “I think we’re confident enough that we can beat every team in this tournament and I think the draw really presents a good opportunity for us to do that. At the same time, we have to play our best to win every match.”

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SUMMING UP THE SEASON: The Fighting Irish closed out the regular season last weekend by splitting a pair of competitive 4-3 decisions in a loss to Wake Forest and a win over N.C. State. It brought their record to 14-10 on the season and 6-6 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIPS OUTLOOK: The Irish received a favorable draw to begin this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, as the last day of the regular season saw the Irish move up in the ACC standings. With a loss to Virginia Tech on Sunday, Florida State fell to a No. 8 seed and moved Notre Dame into seventh place. Had the Seminoles won, the Irish would have faced No. 9 N.C. State, which they defeated 4-3 on Saturday, in the tournament’s first round, and No. 1 Virginia, to whom they fell 6-1 on March 20, in Friday’s quarterfinal if they had advanced. Instead, Notre Dame will face No. 10 Georgia Tech, which the Irish defeated 6-1 on March 22, in order to face No. 2 Virginia Tech, to which they fell 4-3 in a close match on March 6.

HEMMING THE JACKETS: This season’s March 22 meeting between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech was just the second all-time between the programs, and the Irish have collected 6-1 victories in each (2014, 2015). The Yellow Jackets finished the regular season with a 12-11 record (4-8 ACC), but closed out the season with a stunning 4-3 upset over then-No. 8 Duke (current ITA No. 9). With the win, Georgia Tech entered the ITA top 75 rankings at No. 55. It was by far the biggest win of the season for the Yellow Jackets.

RANKINGS UPDATE: In the latest ITA team poll (April 21) the Irish moved up two spots to No. 35 after closing out the season with a win over No. 36 N.C. State. The Irish finished seventh in the ACC standings, behind Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke and Louisville.

A SINGULAR PERFORMER: In the latest ITA singles poll (April 21), junior Quentin Monaghan remained at the No. 9 spot in the rankings for the second week. From March 15 to April 17, Monaghan won 11 straight matches, including wins over the No. 3, No. 11 and No. 12 ranked players. The Chatham, New Jersey, product is 20-3 in dual play this season (29-6 overall) and has set career highs in both dual and overall singles wins. Monaghan is also 10-2 in ACC play.

DOUBLES DOMINANCE: Notre Dame is one of just three programs with two doubles teams ranked in the ITA top 30, joining TCU (Nos. 20 and 29) and South Florida (Nos. 27 and 28). The Irish entries, No. 12 Alex Lawson and Billy Pecor and No. 30 Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar are a combined 19-12 on the season, with Lawson and Pecor boasting an 11-3 record atop the Irish lineup in dual play (6-1 ACC).

SCORING FORMAT CHANGE: The Atlantic Coast Conference has moved to re-implement the regular scoring format utilized in 2014. Earlier this season, matches were played with no-ad scoring, based on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s recommendations for increasing pace of play. All conference matches will once again include an eight-game pro-set for the doubles point with a tiebreak at 7-7, and advantage scoring will be used. During the ACC Championships, doubles play will be suspended once a team wins the point, as will singles matches once the match is clinched.

Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant