April 10, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team has found itself in its fair share of down-to-the-wire matches this season. And senior Billy Pecor is no stranger to being the last man on the court.
In fact, Pecor recalls an entire season when he was nearly always the last man on regardless of the match’s outcome, and he has the litany of 10-point tiebreakers to prove it.
So perhaps it was only fitting that the senior found himself in a third set that would be decisive both individually and for the No. 38 Fighting Irish against No. 70 Clemson on Friday at the the Eck Tennis Pavilion. And it seems experience really does pay off, as Pecor delivered an electrifying 6-4, 1-6, 6-0 victory over Luke Johnson at No. 3 singles to clinch a 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference win for Notre Dame.
“I’ve been in this situation countless times,” Pecor said. “But confidence for me is if I’m doing the right things point in and point out and reactions in between points. I’m usually a pretty confident guy … but I’ve been building the confidence for a couple matches now since since I went through a rough patch and was out with a few injuries.”
Indeed, Pecor has been on the cusp of winning despite a three-match losing streak and, not surprisingly, those matches at Florida State, Duke and North Carolina, all ended in third sets.
This time, Pecor came out strong, though managed only one break in a set that didn’t see much momentum shift. Johnson made sure that changed in the second, making adjustments that rattled Pecor. Coming out in the final set, though, Pecor managed to seize the momentum with a first-game hold, a huge mental boost considering he missed several first serves.
“That was a huge change because I just started committing to the game plan regardless of what (the score) was,” Pecor said. “That was a key, committing to the game plan, doing what I wanted to do on his service games and starting to be more greedy on my service games and on first serves especially.”
Notre Dame (13-9, 5-5 ACC) secured the doubles point with wins on Courts 1 and 3. In the third slot, Dougie Barnard and Quentin Monaghan raced to a 6-3 lead before Clemson’s Christian Harris and Hampton Drake pulled within 6-5. The Irish pair withstood the run, though, notching the next two games to win 8-5.
At the No. 1 spot, 12th-ranked Alex Lawson and Pecor picked up and early break over No. 58 Hunter Harrington and Alejandro Augusto, then held serve until it was 6-5. Then, the top Irish duo took the next two games to snag their own 8-5 lead, picking up match point on a another break. Lawson and Pecor improved to 9-2 at No. 1 doubles this season and 4-1 in ACC play.
The Irish faced additional pressure as singles began and Josh Hagar, who played at No. 2 doubles with Eddy Covalschi in a match that went unfinished and was scheduled to play on Court 2, was scratched with an injury. Head coach Ryan Sachire was happy with the way his team responded, despite encountering some adversity.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match with Clemson and then when Josh couldn’t go in singles, that certainly put a lot of pressure on the guys that were out there because he’s one of our staple guys, particularly at the top of our lineup,” Sachire said. “It caused some stress on some other guys, but we were fortunate to get through it and get a good win and work toward playing better, competing better and having some good results next weekend.”
Lawson extended the Irish lead with a speedy 6-1, 6-1 win over Austin Ansari on Court 4, but the Tigers got those points back as Daffra Sanon defeated Eric Schnurrenberger 6-2, 6-4 at No. 5 and Drake beat Kenneth Sabacinski 6-0, 6-2 at No. 6.
Monaghan, who moved into the ITA singles rankings top 10 this week at No. 10, put the Irish back ahead with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Harrington on Court 1, but Clemson (10-14, 1-9 ACC) pulled even as Augusto defeated Covalschi 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2.
That set the stage for Pecor, once against the last man standing.
The Irish will get the rest of the weekend off before returning to the Courtney Tennis Center for the regular season’s final two matches next Friday and Saturday against Wake Forest and North Carolina State, respectively. For the latest Irish tennis updates, follow @NDMensTennis on Twitter and like Notre Dame Men’s Tennis on Facebook.
No. 38 Notre Dame 4, No. 70 Clemson 3
1. No. 10 Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. Hunter Harrington (CU), 6-4, 7-5
2. Alejandro Augusto (CU) def. Eddy Covalschi (ND), 7-5, 6-4
3. Billy Pecor (ND) def. Luke Johnson (CU), 6-4, 1-6, 6-0
4. Alex Lawson (ND) def. Austin Ansari (CU), 6-1, 6-1
5. Daffra Sanon (CU) def. Eric Schnurrenberger (ND), 6-2, 6-4
6. Hampton Drake (CU) def. Kenneth Sabacinski (ND), 6-0, 6-2
1. No. 12 Alex Lawson / Billy Pecor (ND) def. No. 58 Hunter Harrington / Alejandro Augusto (CU), 8-5
2. No. 27 Eddy Covalschi / Josh Hagar (ND) vs. Luke Johnson / Robert Dudley (CU), 7-5, unfinished
3. Dougie Barnard / Quentin Monaghan (ND) def. Christian Harris / Hampton Drake (CU), 8-5
Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant