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Rivalry renewed with Wildcats

Anne Loughery | Thursday, April 15, 2004

Everyone loves a good rivalry – especially the women’s tennis team. The Irish will renew their intense rivalry with No. 11 Northwestern (15-4) this afternoon when they host the Wildcats at 3:45 p.m. at the Courtney Tennis Center. “There was a lot of energy today at practice because we’re really excited to play Northwestern,” sophomore Lauren Connelly said. “We all know how much we want to beat them. They’re obviously a talented team.”Coach Jay Louderback attributes the rivalry to the proximity of the two schools and their competitive natures. In addition, a number of the players challenged each other in the junior leagues. “I’m hoping it will be a tight match,” Louderback said. “The tighter the match, the better of a chance we have to win. “They know we’ll be excited to play and their coach is going to let them know it’s going to be a good match. I think our kids are very capable of playing at that level.” Last year, the Wildcats claimed a 7-0 win against the Irish, sweeping both the singles and doubles portions of the meet. The victory put the Wildcats at 16-8 all-time against the Irish. Louderback recalled that Northwestern brought an especially talented team to the courts last year.”They killed us last year,” Louderback said. “They’re a very, very good team.”Northwestern seems to be off to a strong start again this year, adding a pair of impressive wins against Minnesota and No. 32 Iowa last weekend. Northwestern is currently tied for second-place in the Big Ten with Indiana. Louderback anticipates the Irish will encounter challenges at every position, especially at No. 1 singles. No. 11 senior Alicia Salas will face No. 3 Christelle Grier, who is expected to contend for the NCAA individual title. Salas has a career 1-3 record against Grier.”[Salas] has been doing really well this year. She’s just lost a lot of close matches,” Louderback said. “This is a great opportunity for her to get a win.” Also stepping on the courts will be No. 55 singles player Jessica Rush and the No. 2 doubles team of Grier and Rush. While the Wildcats bring intimidating rankings to the meet, the Irish bring their own advantages.”We’re much more comfortable playing at home, too,” Connelly said. “It’s also nice staying at home because traveling is really tiring, and the fans are amazing.”