Columbia Upsets Notre Dame, 4-2, in ITA Kickoff Weekend
by Lizzie Mikes, 27 January 2015 Media Services Coordinator, University of Notre Dame
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The University of Notre Dame men's tennis team knew they would face stiff competition as they prepared to host during ITA Kickoff Weekend; what they couldn't have foreseen was a come-from behind upset victory by another top-16 team. Sunday afternoon, in a match that lasted almost four full hours, the Irish were toppled by Columbia, 4-2, who advanced to the ITA Indoor Championships in February with the win.
"I think this is a very good win for us; you know, we beat two very good, top-ranked teams this weekend," Columbia's head coach Bid Goswami said. "I called this the 'Group of Death' on our way here, because you have the 14, the 16, the 17 and the 24 teams all playing one another. Everybody had to play very well, and we played two very good matches.
"I'm very proud of the way our guys fought," Goswami continued. "We lost the doubles point in both matches, but we came back to win it in the singles. So it's a very good team effort for us; everybody did their part."
Saturday the Lions came back from a deficit on several occasions against the Tennessee Volunteers, first losing the doubles point and then going down 2-0 as junior Eric Rubin fell to Jess Jones, 6-2, 6-2 in the sixth singles position. Senior Ashok Narayana earned the first point for Columbia with his straight-set victory over Luis Valero, 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth singles match.
Not about to let victory escape so quickly, Tennessee's Mikelis Libietis - who ranks No. 16 in the nation - out-lasted Columbia's ace Winston Lin (himself ranked No. 22) at the first singles position 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Now down 3-1, the Lions quickly stormed back to tie the match 3-all with wins on the third and fifth courts. The match came down to Dragos Ignat at the second court, who took the first set 6-4 and shook off a 5-7 loss in the second set to power home a decisive 6-2 win in the third and clinch the win for Columbia.
Sunday, the Lions also went the distance when facing the Irish, as two of the three doubles matches went in to tiebreakers and all six singles courts went to third sets.
"I'm really proud of our team; we played our tails off; we knew it was going to be a great match," Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said. "We were right there with them until the last ball, and when you have two doubles matches decided by tie-breakers and then all six singles matches go to three sets - they might have out-performed us at the end but we have to hold our heads high. We played a great match and competed the right way, and I'm really proud of what we did."
Notre Dame took an early 1-0 lead after the doubles competition, as Quentin Monaghan and Eric Schnurrenberger bested Richard Pham and Bert Vancura 6-2 on the third doubles court. At the second court, Lions teammates Mike Vermeer and Lin earned a victory against No. 9 Josh Hagar and Eddy Covalschi, 7-6 (7-4). As all eyes turned to the first doubles court, Irish fans cheered loudly as the No. 8 combo of Alex Lawson and Billy Pecor defeated the No. 6 pairing of Narayana and Max Schnur 7-6 (7-3).
In singles, Lawson forced Vermeer - ranked No. 124 - to three sets after initially winning the first set, 6-4 but losing 6-2 in the second. Lawson could not hold on for the win, and Columbia was on the board with Vermeer's 6-4 third-set win. Ignat again put the Lions ahead at the second singles court, besting Hagar - ranked No. 82 in singles - 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
With Columbia up 2-1, Pecor pushed past an early 5-7 loss to win against Vancura at the fifth court 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to tie the match at 2-all. Columbia once again rallied the troops, earning third-set wins at the third and fourth courts to seal a trip to Illinois in February.
"I hate to say it like this, but I almost like to win this way; to lose the doubles and then go up in the singles," Goswami stated. "And yet, I feel like we should win some of these doubles matches - we've been working hard at that, and it will come to fruition very soon. I think we are right there, and with a little bit of good fortune we can win it."
Both programs had nothing but compliments towards one another, as Goswami went on to say he thought Notre Dame would be a top contender moving forward. "I think Notre Dame is as good as anybody; if you look at it, last year we lost to Georgia and USC; we lost to Georgia in the kickoff when they were ranked third, and then we lost to USC when they were No. 1. So we were 20-2 before this weekend; those were our only two losses. I feel that Notre Dame, and even Tennessee, both were very tough; I think Notre Dame is as good as anybody out there right now."
Sachire matched Goswami's sentiments, stating, "Columbia's a great team; they have everybody back from a team that made it to the Sweet 16 last year, and we saw that lineup today; that's what got them there last year. You've got to be really, really impressed with Quentin Monaghan and what he did; to be in a third-set tiebreaker and winning against arguably one of the top-10 players in the country in Winston Lin - that's a great result for him. Alex [Lawson] played one of the best number six players in the country right to the wire. So up and down our own lineup, you have to be proud of the guys for what we accomplished today."
No. 24 Oklahoma State and No. 17 Tennessee faced each other Sunday morning in the consolation round, with the Cowboys upsetting the Volunteers 4-1. Oklahoma State won the doubles point with victories at the third and first courts after initially losing at the second court. In singles, the Cowboys dominated, with Lucas Gerch defeating Igor Smelyanski 6-0, 6-1; Nicola Ferrigno besting Jess Jones, 6-4, 6-2; and No. 74 Arjun Kadhe out-scoring Hunter Reese 3-6, 6-1, 6-0. Libietis scored the sole point for Tennessee with his first singles court victory against No. 98 Jakob Sude, 6-3, 6-1.
For more on the ITA Kick-off Weekend, see the ITA website, which has links to match recaps here.