April 18, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — University of Notre Dame men’s tennis head coach Ryan Sachire called him a pitbull.
It was a fitting moniker Saturday for Fighting Irish junior Kenneth Sabacinski, and any day, really. Not a regular feature of the Irish singles lineup, Sabacinski makes the most of his appearances, which have become increasingly frequent as injuries have caused shuffling among the lineup.
So it was Sabacinski scrapping again on Court 6, in one of three matches locked into third sets and the Irish with a tenuous 3-1 lead over 36th-ranked N.C. State at the Courtney Tennis Center. But even after losing the first set to Nick Horton, and going down two breaks in the second, the 5-foot-8 Florida native didn’t back down, providing a crucial comeback victory to seal a 4-3 win for Notre Dame.
Sabacinski roared back in the second set to force a tiebreaker, then forced a third set despite being down most of the match. That proved to be the final shift in momentum as Sabacinski opened a 4-1 lead in the final set, just as teammate Alex Lawson fell to Thomas Weigel 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Court 5. Now with just a 3-2 team lead, Sabacinski held the rest of the way to clinch a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory. With a win also on Friday, he moved to 9-3 in dual singles play and 7-3 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
“He just never stopped and just kept coming,” Sachire said. “That’s what we talk about all the time: keep fighting, keep plugging away, keep working and keep believing. He did a great job of that and I think he broke (Horton’s) spirit toward the end of that match, so all credit goes to Kenny for that one. He kept plugging away and did a good job of turning that match around and getting the clinching win for us.”
The Irish (14-10, 6-6 ACC) jumped out to a 3-0 lead, first clinching the doubles point with wins on Courts 1 and 3. No. 12 Lawson and Billy Pecor were holding for most of the pro-set, but picked up a crucial break to go up 6-5, and it proved decisive in an 8-6 win over Robbie Mudge and Horton. Dougie Barnard and Quentin Monaghan recorded their own 8-6 victory over Beck Bond and Austin Powell at the No. 3 slot, as an early two-break lead provided enough cushion to hold onto the win.
Monaghan quickly provided another Notre Dame point as the ninth-ranked junior upended No. 54 Mudge 6-4, 6-1. It was the 20th dual win of the season for Monaghan, who is now 10-2 in ACC play.
Josh Hagar also got back into the win column, picking up an impressive come-from-behind 7-5 win in the first set over No. 104 Simon Norenius, gripping a break to pull even at 5-all, then breaking again to clinch the set. The sophomore went up 2-0 in the second before Norenius retired with back pain.
The Wolfpack (17-10, 5-7 ACC) got a point back as No. 92 Austin Powell defeated Eddy Covalschi at No. 3, 7-5, 6-1. That set up the final stretch with three-set matches left on Courts 4, 5 and 6.
Once the match was clinched, Pecor fell to Bond, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 4.
“It was definitely a competitive dual match with two teams going at each other,” Sachire said. “No one gave in, and that’s to be expected at this level. That’s what you want out of your team and that’s what you want out of your opponent, to not give in. Give N.C. State a lot of credit; they battled and could have gotten away at times, too. Both teams responded when there was adversity and that was a big thing we talked about going into this match: no matter the circumstance, keep fighting, keep plugging and go down until the last ball.”
The Irish will be watching Sunday’s results between Florida State and Virginia Tech as the outcome will determine the seeding for next week’s ACC Championship to be held in Cary, North Carolina. Should the Seminoles win, Notre Dame will meet N.C. State again on Thursday. For the latest Irish tennis updates, follow @NDMensTennis on Twitter and like Notre Dame Men’s Tennis on Facebook.
No. 37 Notre Dame 4, No. 36 NC State 3
1. No. 9 Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. No. 54 Robbie Mudge (NCST), 6-4, 6-1
2. Josh Hagar (ND) def. No. 104 Simon Norenius (NCST), 7-5, 2-0, retired
3. No. 92 Austin Powell (NCST) def. Eddy Covalschi (ND), 7-5, 6-1
4. Beck Bond (NCST) def. Billy Pecor (ND), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
5. Thomas Weigel (NCST) def. Alex Lawson (ND), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
6. Kenneth Sabacinski (ND) def. Nick Horton (NCST), 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-2
1. No. 12 Alex Lawson / Billy Pecor (ND) def. Robbie Mudge / Nick Horton (NCST), 8-6
2. No. 30 Eddy Covalschi / Josh Hagar (ND) vs. Thomas Weigel / Shoti Meparidze (NCST), 3-6, unfinished
3. Dougie Barnard / Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. Beck Bond / Austin Powell (NCST), 8-6
Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant