By Dalton Ray–
In perhaps the biggest win of the season, men’s tennis knocked off rival Notre Dame in a 4-3 victory.
Sophomore George Headley clinched the match in comeback fashion during the third set. The Cardinals and Irish have a long history of playing, something coach Rex Ecarma is fully aware of.
“Ever since (2006), every match of Louisville and Notre Dame has been important. We have played in several conference championship finals. It just always goes down to the wire,” Ecarma said. “That match was another Louisville-Notre Dame classic.”
The win is their second conference win and their 11th this season. Last season, Louisville had 11 wins total with one conference win. Ecarma said the win over the Irish shows the difference between the teams.
“They beat us up last year at their place without their best player,” Ecarma said. “So for (Notre Dame) to come in here with a full lineup and we win, it just shows how much growth and development this team has had.”
The Cardinals haven’t had an easy road to arrive at an 11-3 record. U of L has played Northwestern, Purdue, defending champion Virginia, Indiana and Georgia State. Louisville’s three losses came at the hands of Northwestern, UVA and IU.
Ecarma describes matches to his team like an empty chapter in a book and their play writes the words.
“When we’re about to play, I tell them, ‘This chapter is blank. You all are going to write what is in this chapter.’ Not only will they write the chapter, but they need to learn from each chapter. I really feel like these guys learned from their losses,” Ecarma said.
Ecarma said his team isn’t showing a difference of play against top competition, but against smaller schools as well.
“Last year, we barely beat (Tennessee Tech) 4-3. They returned nearly their entire lineup. We lose our one and three from last year and we beat them 6-1 this year,” Ecarma said. “That’s the same team, same time of year and we beat the team down. That showed me this team is two levels better than last year.”
Louisville is No. 31 in the country and is led by many underclassmen. Sophomore Brandon Landcaster leads the team with a 10-4 record in singles. The next highest win total are from freshman Clement Filho and sophomore Chris Morin-Kougoucheff with six each.
Morin-Kougoucheff has owned the first court for the Cardinals and is fresh off beating No. 33 Josh Hagar of Notre Dame.
“I love the No. 1 court and the competition. I had the two losses to two ranked guys (before Hagar) and I knew my tennis wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Against Hagar, I just came in with confidence and did what I needed to do,” Morin-Kougoucheff said.
In doubles, Louisville has one of the toughest duos in the nation in senior Sean Donohue and freshman Parker Wynn. The pair is 16-1 and beat the No. 12 doubles team in the country of Notre Dame. Match suspensions have hurt the Donohue and Parker, as the two were up on No. 4 and No. 25 teams before having the match called off.
Ecarma said Donohue and Wynn speak the same “doubles language” and that’s what makes them so dangerous.
“Sean and Parker want to hit hard from the baseline and sprint to the net to finish it off with volleys. They have the same doubles philosophy and completely understand each other,” Ecarma said.
With two points clinching the match’s double points, having a pair like Donohue and Wynn is a huge advantage for the Cardinals.
Louisville’s second half of the season begins with No. 28 Florida State. For Ecarma, this match is one of the biggest of the year.
“This is our first ACC Network match. Florida State is coming off beating (No. 16) Florida, who was a favorite to win the SEC. (Florida State) is coming in here hot,” Ecarma said.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal