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Irish to confront solid Iowa team

Ann Loughery | Thursday, March 18, 2004

No. 21 Notre Dame (7-4) will face a young but potent Iowa team Thursday.

Iowa, currently ranked No. 47, brings to the meet a team consisting of four freshmen and two veterans. Despite what may seem like an inexperienced lineup, the Hawkeyes have garnered a 9-2 record, which includes a key win against Georgia Tech.

“[The entire school] is very athletic overall and all of their teams do well. They are really able to rise to the occasion and play well,” said coach Jay Louderback.

Notre Dame’s foremost challenge will be confronting these four freshmen. Freshman Meg Racette is 16-4 overall this season, with a 7-3 record at No. 1 singles. Fellow classmate Hillary Mintz is 20-5 overall, collecting a 8-2 at No. 2. Together, they form a solid No. 1 doubles team with a 7-3 record.

“They’re talented freshmen, looking at their record,” Louderback said. “It will just be hard for the girls at first because they’re playing the unknown.

“They’ll have to feel their way through the first match and see what the other girls’ playing style is like.”

Last year’s matchup resulted in a 4-3 win for the Irish. Notre Dame has claimed the win in four of the last eight regular-season matches against the Hawkeyes.

“Our kids love to compete against a regional team,” Louderback said. “We see them a lot in tournaments during the year, there’s always a rivalry against regional teams. They’re out to get us.”

The Irish return to the courts, hoping to snap their three-match losing streak after facing disappointing losses to No. 17 Illinois 5-2, No. 6 Duke 6-1 and No. 36 Tennessee 6-1. Louderback said the team has focused on fundamentals and drills in preparation for Thursday’s matches.

“It was great to get back indoors for practice,” Louderback said. “I think we’ll be a good outdoor team, but we just need a few more wins indoors to get match-tough.”