Succeeding Bobby Bayliss, one of the winningest coaches in collegiate tennis history, is not easy. But new coach Ryan Sachire, a former Irish standout, is confident his team can move forward without their former leader.
"It's an intimidating role to be in," Sachire said of following Bayliss. "Coach Bayliss had a huge impact on me and my actions because he coached me, so there will be some similarities. But at the same time, we won't be thinking what would [Bayliss] do, but instead what I think is best for the program."
Of course, Sachire is familiar with Notre Dame tennis. In addition to serving as an assistant coach for seven years, Sachire, a member of the Class of 2000, is still one of the most decorated players in program history. He led the Irish to four bids to the NCAA tournament and was twice named a Big East Academic All-Star. By the time he graduated, Sachire had been named an All-American three times and won the Ted A. Farnsworth/ITA National Senior Player of the Year award.
"Notre Dame was the best four years of my life," Sachire said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more from my professors, my teammates, coach Bayliss and my assistant coaches, as an athlete and a student."
After he earned his degree in economics, Sachire played tennis professionally for five years, ranking among the top 35 Americans at his peak before he retired in 2004. Though Sachire says he enjoyed his time among the pros, he prefers college tennis.
"I've always been motivated by being part of a team and doing the best I can for something bigger than myself, especially at Notre Dame," Sachire said. "On the tour it's all about you and it's more difficult. It's an adjustment ... and I knew my heart was always on the college level [of tennis], which is why I came back and became a coach."
Throughout his career, Sachire won 16 doubles tournaments and two singles titles on the ATP Futures and Challengers tours. Those victories remain the highlights of his career, especially the Challengers victories.
"There's nothing better than on a Sunday afternoon when you've conquered a professional event," Sachire said. "Those were the moments that I felt it was really clicking and I felt my career was going somewhere."
After retiring from the pro ranks in 2004, Sachire became a coach and worked for a year as an assistant at Baylor. He was immediately successful, helping Baylor to a top-five national ranking, a berth in the NCAA semifinals and a conference championship.
"I knew I wanted to be a coach pretty soon after I came to Notre Dame," Sachire said. "My dad was a high school coach and my parents were both teachers so athletics and academics were important to me, as well as having the chance to form well-rounded individuals."
Soon, Sachire's connections to Notre Dame led him back to serve as the assistant to Bayliss. In 2006, Sachire married Cindy Harding, a former Irish cheerleader, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.
After two years, Bayliss promoted Sachire to associate head coach, and together the pair coached the Irish to numerous conference championships and NCAA championship appearances. In addition, recruiting has reached new heights with every class since Sachire's return ranked in the top 15 nationally. When Bayliss announced his retirement midway through last season, Sachire was immediately named his successor. Now, as the Irish enter the competitive ACC, Sachire isn't too worried about stepping up and leading.
"I'm coming in with maybe a little more authority in the new role," Sachire said. "But at the same time I'm going to try to be myself because I think that's how I'll be best received by the players."
Sachire and the Irish begin their season at the OFCC Invitational at Olympia Fields, Ill., on Sept. 13.
Contact Greg Hadley at email@example.com