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Women’s Tennis: Connelly embraces new role

Dan Tapetillo | Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Lauren Connelly is Notre Dame’s captain for a reason, or so say her teammates – and her results.

The Irish senior lost just five games in three matches during Notre Dame’s 7-0 victory over Ohio State and Xavier Saturday at Eck Tennis Pavilion. And the rest of Connelly’s team followed her lead.

“She’s a leader on and off the court,” junior Catrina Thompson said Monday. “She is always positive and one of the hardest workers on the team.”

Connelly is also on track to finish among the top five in Notre Dame history in overall doubles wins. She and partner Kiki Statsny are ranked No. 45 in the nation in doubles.

The statistics and the team’s quick start validate the decision to name her captain prior to the season, but that doesn’t mean Connelly expected the title.

“It meant a lot to be honored as the captain because of how many other seniors are on the team,” Connelly said. “I want to keep everyone focused on their goals and not to ever become discouraged, to motivate everyone in practice and make workouts fun.”

Earning the captaincy also established a legacy of team captains in the Connelly family. Last season, her older sister, Sarah Jane Connelly, served as team captain for the 2004-05 season.

But Lauren Connelly brings her own distinct talents.

“She has one of the best backhands on the team,” Thompson said. “That is what makes her so competitive. She has natural instincts around the net and is just an awesome doubles player.”

Despite the immediate comparisons, Connelly does not view the role as successor to her older sister as intimidating. Instead, she sees this opportunity as an honor to follow the footsteps of someone she greatly admires.

“[Sarah Jane] has inspired me to be a great captain because all the other girls looked up to her,” Connelly said. “She was the person in practice that would keep the spirits up. She is someone I look up to and want to be like.”

Connelly’s acceptance of the captain role this season marks the first time a pair of sisters have held this title in tennis and only the fifth time in all other varsity sports.

And with two wins already in tact, Connelly is hoping the team’s unity will create great results this season.

“We are really unified, and we get along so well on and off the court,” she said. “We have been really close all year. The dynamics of the team [are] really great and will help us during this season.”