March 29, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If a hallmark of a good team is an ability to weather adversity, then the University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team showed just how good it can be this weekend on its tour of the state of Florida.
The 37th-ranked Irish have faced a gauntlet of a schedule this season, having faced 12 ranked opponents so far in 18 matches. Heading into Sunday’s match at No. 32 Florida State, however, the Irish were just 4-7 in those contests this season. On Sunday, Notre Dame found what had eluded it since the beginning of the season, snagging a 4-3 win over a top-35 opponent for the first time since beating then-No. 30 Northwestern on January 30.
This despite losing the doubles point. Despite losing three first sets in singles play. Despite four singles matches reaching third sets, and despite two third sets coming down to tiebreakers.
Indeed, overcoming those challenges only showed head coach Ryan Sachire that the Irish are still capable of reaching the lofty goals they set at the season’s outset.
“Florida State is a really good team and, credit to them, they played a really good match today,” Sachire said. “Four of the six singles matches went to three sets and two went to tiebreakers in the third. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They reacted to adversity well. We kept on battling and came back after they made some runs. It’s really hard to come to the state of Florida and get two wins against Miami (4-3 on Friday) and Florida State, but we’re getting better and better as the season goes on.”
Florida State (14-6, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) controlled matches on all three courts in doubles play, a product of a sluggish start on Notre Dame’s part. At the No. 1 slot, No. 30 Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez upset Notre Dame’s No. 9 Alex Lawson and Billy Pecor 8-4. On Court 3, Terrance and Terrell Whitehurst defeated Dougie Barnard and Quentin Monaghan by the same score. The Seminoles claimed the point before the match on Court 2 could be completed, with Cristian Gonzalez Mendez and Michael Rinaldi leading No. 22 Eddy Covalschi and Josh Hagar, 7-3.
Monaghan, ranked 17th in the ITA singles poll, pulled the Irish even at 1-1 with a swift 6-1, 6-0 win on Court 1, defeating No. 106 Lock. But the Seminoles quickly got the point back as No. 90 Rinaldi defeated Covalschi 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3.
As the momentum swung back and forth, Hagar knotted things again, coming back from a one-set deficit to defeat Nunez 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Court 2. That victory set the stage for three more three-set affairs that would decide the match.
Like Hagar, Kenneth Sabacinski also fell behind in the first set on Court 6, falling 7-5 as opponent Terrance Whitehurst made a late run. Far from becoming discouraged, though, Sabacinski pressed `reset’ and corralled a 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory to once again push the Irish ahead 3-2.
It would be the last lead change of the match, as Alex Lawson put the match away for the Irish with the next decision, a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(6) win over Jose Gracia on Court 5. The win ended a three-match skid for Lawson, including two in which he’d won the first set but lost in three.
With the match secure for the Irish, Mendez defeated Pecor 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4).
It was just the fourth time in 18 matches this season the Irish failed to win the doubles point, but the second time the Irish came back to win the match (also at Kentucky, January 17). Head coach Ryan Sachire credited his team’s mental toughness in coming back to win four singles matches, something the Irish have struggled with at times this season.
“We did a great job,” Sachire said. “We started slowly at all three doubles positions and did not react well. We just dug ourselves too big of a hole and we talked about that at the break that (Florida State) going to make a run and we can’t get discouraged. We did a great job of that in singles today. I really believe this team grew up today and this is big win today and for us moving forward.”
Notre Dame will hit the road again next weekend, heading down to Tobacco Road to face No. 4 Duke at 2 p.m. EDT Friday in Durham, North Carolina, and No. 14 North Carolina at noon EDT on Sunday in Chapel Hill. 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. 32 Florida State 3
1. No. 17 Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. No. 106 Benjamin Lock (FSU), 6-1, 6-0
2. Josh Hagar (ND) def. Marco Nunez (FSU), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
3. No. 90 Michael Rinaldi (FSU) def. Eddy Covalschi (ND), 6-2, 6-1
4. Cristian Gonzalez Mendez (FSU) def. Billy Pecor (ND), 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(4)
5. Alex Lawson (ND) def. Jose Gracia (FSU), 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(6)
6. Kenneth Sabacinski (ND) def. Terrance Whitehurst (FSU), 5-7, 6-4, 6-1
1. No. 30 Benjamin Lock / Marco Nunez (FSU) def. No. 9 Alex Lawson / Billy Pecor (ND), 8-4
2. No. 22 Eddy Covalschi / Josh Hagar (ND) vs. Cristian Gonzalez Mendez / Michael Rinaldi (FSU), 3-7, unfinished
3. Terrance Whitehurst / Terrell Whitehurst (FSU) def. Dougie Barnard / Quentin Monaghan (ND), 8-4
Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant