NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- For the first time since 2007, Notre Dame will play in the Round of 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Irish fought their way to the championship in a tight match against Mississippi on Sunday afternoon, ultimately coming out on top 4-2.
“Well, we talk about it all year long,” Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said. “Grit. Grit and toughness. You know, we set a goal for ourselves to get to Athens, to get to the Sweet 16 and beyond back in August in our first team meeting. After that we only talked about the process and what it’s going to take to achieve those goals, and grittiness and toughness is the one thing that we’ve always preached to our guys, and they really displayed that today. What a great match.”
The Irish got off to a good start with the doubles point. The duo of senior Greg Andrews and sophomore Alex Lawson bested William Kallberg and Stefan Lindmark 8-2 at No. 1. Senior Billy Pecor and freshman Josh Hagar then fell at No. 2 to Nik Scholtz and Ricardo Jorge 8-4. The doubles point was decided on court No. 3, where sophomore Quentin Monaghan and senior Ryan Bandy defeated Johan Backstrom and Joe Rogers 8-6.
Ole Miss tied it up with the first match off the court in singles. Jorge beat freshman Eddy Covalschi at No. 5 6-4, 6-4. Sophomore Eric Schnurrenberger defeated Vinod Gowda on court No. 6 6-3, 7-5, putting Notre Dame back up 2-1.
The Rebels came back at No. 2 singles. Kallberg defeated Bandy in three sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Hagar topped Backstrom at No. 4 6-4, 7-6(3). He won his second set in a 7-3 tiebreaker after falling behind 4-5 in the set.
The remaining matches on the court -- Andrews and Scholtz at No. 1 and Monaghan and Lindmark at No. 3 -- both went into third sets. With Andrews at 6-5 and Monaghan at 5-4, either one could have sealed the Notre Dame victory, but it was Monaghan who clinched the match for the Irish, defeating Lindmark 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
“Battling through adversity has been one of the traits of this team the whole year,” Monaghan said. “We’ve just been trying to establish gritty competitiveness. We were favored to win this match by ranking, but going to the final set, we knew it was going to be a battle, and I think everyone was ready for their best shot, and I think that kind of helped us when things got tough.”
The Irish now advance to the NCAA Round of 16 in Athens, Georgia, where they will play the Virginia Cavaliers, whom Notre Dame has already seen in three matches so far this season.