Sachire leads Irish in upset over No. 18 Wildcats
By RACHEL BIBER
Irish captain and All-American Ryan Sachire entered an invincible zone during yesterday's match against 18th-ranked Kentucky, and the rest of the team followed as the Irish stormed away with a 5-2 upset over one of the nation's toughest teams.
The matchup kicked into high gear for the Irish, who took the doubles point with wins in the number two and three spots. Sachire and senior Trent Miller teamed together to defeat Kentucky's doubles duo of Carlos Drada and Reven Stephens, while sophomores Casey Smith and James Malhame topped Edo Bawono and Johan Grunditz. With the doubles point already awarded, the Irish pair of sophomores Javier Taborga and Aaron Talarico did not complete their match against Kentucky's Johan Hesoun and Gustav Pousette. Talarico gave the Irish a quick win at number four singles, blowing away Bawono of Kentucky 6-1, 6-0. Fourteenth-ranked Sachire followed Talarico's lead by knocking off 9th-ranked Drada 6-1, 6-3, improving his singles record to 16-6.
"Aaron Talarico was really on his game today," Irish coach Bob Bayliss said. "And Ryan had an unbelievable match. Drada is in the top 10 in the country."
The top match, pitting Sachire against Drada, was expected to be a close battle, but Sachire showed no weaknesses throughout the entire match and did not allow Drada to steal away his momentum. He sprang out to an early lead, going up 5-0 in the first set with an impressive serve-and-volley style of play that consistently forced Drada to abandon his offensive attack.
Sachire never looked back, suffocating the Kentucky southpaw with an aggression that has locked up several key wins for the senior this season.
After Talarico and Sachire added two more points for Notre Dame, the match was still not secure under the Notre Dame's belt. The remaining four singles matches in progress looked to be close, but Notre Dame freshman Brian Farrell snuck away with a crucial victory against Kentucky's Reven Stephens that lead to an Irish win, improving their dual-match record to 3-2.
Farrell became aware of the importance of his match as the home crowd began to gather in the stands and show their support. After securing the first set 6-2, Farrell, who was filling in for the injured Irish junior Matt Daly, had a match point at 6-5, but was shut out and forced to go to a tiebreaker. His power centered baseline game did not desert him, but rather assisted him in running away with the tiebreaker by a score of 7-2.
"[Farrell] showed a lot of poise today," Bayliss said. "He stayed with what he does best — solid beat flashy today."
Showing the composure of an experienced collegiate player, Farrell did not crack under pressure, and his win proved to be the clincher for the Irish upset. After being swarmed by his team following his victory, Farrell recognized the significance of his match, and had a permanent grin on his face.
"I knew [the match] was of some importance when everyone came to watch," Farrell said. "I'm just happy I won."
Following the climax of Farrell's win, the remaining singles matches were decided by tiebreakers to allow the Wildcats to get a head start on a long road trip home.
Kentucky came away with two victories in the final three matches.
Grunditz defeated Taborga 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) at No. 3 singles for Kentucky's first point. Pousette rallied for a 6-7 (8-6), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) over sophomore Andrew Laflin at No. 5 singles. Smith defeated 48th-ranked Hesoun 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8) for the 5-2 final.
With the win, the Irish proved they are national contenders and must be taken seriously. The victory also evened out the series record between the Irish and the Wildcats, making the tally 10-10-1.
"It was our best effort of the year," Bayliss said.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, February 9, 2000