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Irish get set to take on trio of ranked opponents

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No. 2 Notre Dame hosts No. 23 Michigan to kick off a tough three-match home stand today at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 4 p.m.

“Michigan is always a good team to play because you know they’re going to play hard and fair,” Notre Dame coach Jay Louderback said. “It should be a really good match. They’re undefeated and they beat Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Washington, which are all quality teams.”

Michigan senior Jenny Kuehn, a fifth-year transfer from Tulane, leads the Wolverines with a spotless dual-match record this season.

“[Kuehn] has a lot of experience,” Louderback said. “She played No. 1 and No. 2 singles at Tulane, and they were a top-20 team when she was there.”

After Michigan, No. 7 North Carolina (9-2) and No. 20 Wake Forest (4-0) will travel to South Bend for matches on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Irish (6-1) are accustomed to playing highly ranked teams in a short time span. Two weeks ago at the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament, Notre Dame knocked off No. 13 Clemson, No. 10 Baylor and No. 6 Northwestern in consecutive days before falling to No. 3 Georgia Tech in the finals.

“[The experience at the ITA] is really going to help, especially against Michigan and Wake Forest,” Louderback said. “They’re just going through the tough part of their schedule now and they haven’t gone through what we have, but North Carolina has.”

A key factor in Notre Dame’s success has been its ability to capture the doubles point at the beginning of every match. The only time this season the Irish failed to capture the doubles point was in their loss against Georgia Tech.

But even if Notre Dame does start the match ahead 1-0, Louderback says the Irish still have to remain cautious.

“The thing that’ll be interesting with Michigan is that they’re 3-0, but they haven’t won the doubles point yet,” Louderback said. “So they struggle in the doubles but then they’ve come out and at least won four singles matches.”

On the singles side, Irish freshman Cosmina Ciobanu has won all seven of her singles matches this season while Catrina Thompson has gone 5-2. No. 31 Colleen Rielley will try to halt a three-match losing streak against the Wolverines.

“We’ve just had her hit a lot of balls. She just needs her confidence back. She’s just had some tight matches and played pretty well,” Louderback said. “The more she plays at the top of our lineup and gets more experience, she’ll be fine.”