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Women’s Tennis: Tough test on tap at ITA Indoor

Chris Hine | Thursday, February 1, 2007

For the first time in five years, Notre Dame will take part in the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championships in Madison, Wis.

The tournament – which runs today through Sunday – features 16 of the top teams around the country, four of whom lie ahead for the No. 4 Irish (2-0) in their dual match schedule.

“This is the second best tournament of the year besides the NCAA,” Notre Dame coach Jay Louderback said. “This is a preliminary, or dress rehearsal, to prepare us for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year.”

The Irish will face No. 18 Clemson (2-0) today in first-round action. Leading the Tigers is No. 72 junior Carol Salge and Frederica van Adrichem, who finished the 2006 season ranked No. 55 in singles play.

Clemson is a young team with freshmen comprising half of their 10-player roster, with only one senior – Maria Brito. But the team’s success in recent years offers an exciting challenge for Notre Dame.

“We’re really excited to get a chance to play Clemson,” Louderback said. “We haven’t played them for quite a while. They’ve done well in the NCAA Tournament the last few years.”

Notre Dame began its spring season with a 7-0 win over Illinois and a 4-3 victory over No. 12 Vanderbilt, who is also one of the 16 teams in the tournament this weekend. This year’s team relies on its highly touted doubles teams of No. 11 Catrina and Christian Thompson and No. 5 Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft to gain the doubles point and give the Irish a 1-0 start in each match. After that, Notre Dame looks to at least split singles matches to claim victory.

“We’ll be happy to win it. We’re the two seed this year, but eight to ten teams have a chance to win it,” Louderback said.

Should the Irish defeat the Tigers, they will play the winner of No. 10 Baylor and No. 37 BYU. If Notre Dame makes it all the way to the finals, they will most likely face No. 1 Stanford.

“Everybody’s looking forward to playing Stanford. There are seniors on the Stanford team who have never lost a dual match,” Louderback said. “Any chance to play them is going to be fun … but we have a lot of other matches we have to play before them.”

Win or lose, Louderback said his squad should get some quality competition against other elite programs around the country.

“We should get three matches against top-20 teams, which is going to be good for us,” he said. “This is good preparation for when we play top-flight teams at the end of the year in the NCAA Tournament.”