Jan. 22, 2016
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will face an early challenge as the No. 36 Irish join a field of three top 25 teams this Friday and Saturday at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
WHAT: ITA Kick-Off Weekend
WHO: No. 36 Notre Dame, No. 7 Illinois, No. 24 Tulsa, No. 25 Northwestern
WHEN: January 22-23, 2016
WHERE: Atkins Tennis Center | Champaign, Illinois
LIVE: Scoring & Video
Below, find all you need to know ahead of Notre Dame’s third straight appearance at the ITA Kick-Off:
ITA Kick-Off Weekend
The ITA Kick-Off Weekend serves as the qualifying tournament for February’s ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championships, which will be held February 12-15 at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. A total of 64 teams will compete at campus sites this week to determine the 16 qualifiers for the national event. The Irish will face other ranked foes, starting with seventh-ranked host Illinois at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, while No. 24 Tulsa and No. 25 Northwestern face off in the weekend’s opening round. The winners from each match will meet on Saturday to determine the pod’s champion, while the losing teams will meet to determine third place. Notre Dame served as a host site for last season’s Kick-Off Weekend, but fell to Columbia in the championship match.
Irish In The Field
Notre Dame enters the weekend as the field’s lowest-ranked squad, but return plenty of experience and add depth with a group of talented underclassmen. Friday’s match will pit the Irish against a formidable foe in the Illini, who boast four nationally ranked singles players. Notre Dame is 24-24 all-time against Illinois, and 0-2 under head coach Ryan Sachire. It will be the first of two match-ups the Irish have scheduled with the Illini this season, as they will return to the Atkins Tennis Center on February 5.
The Irish are 3-4 all time against Tulsa, but have dropped the last three meetings with the Golden Hurricane (2008-10). Notre Dame holds a 45-27-1 record against Northwestern, including a 2-0 mark under Sachire. The Irish defeated the Wildcats 4-3 last season.
The Irish moved up one spot this week to No. 36 in the Oracle/ITA Men’s Tennis Rankings after opening the season with a pair of wins over Michigan State and Detroit last Saturday. In singles, senior Quentin Monaghan enters the year ranked No. 36 in the singles poll, while Monaghan and classmate Alex Lawson come in as the No. 6 doubles team in the country after debuting at No. 28 in the fall.
Last Time Out
Notre Dame kicked off the season in dominating fashion last Saturday, dispatching Michigan State 6-1 and Detroit 7-0 in an opening day doubleheader. All 12 of Notre Dame’s healthy players saw action on Saturday, with 11 collecting wins in singles, doubles or both.
ITA Rules Changes
This season, the NCAA with the support of the ITA, will utilize a no-ad scoring format for the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s tennis championships. If a game reaches deuce, the next point will win the game. Additionally, eight-game pro-sets will no longer be utilized in doubles matches, with teams playing one set to six, with a tiebreak at six-all. At the individual doubles championships, matches will consist of the best-of-three sets, with a match tiebreak in lieu of a third set. The rules changes are designed to improve the pace of play in championship matches.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant 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 and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.