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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish take on No. 2 Yellow Jackets

Lorenzo Reyes | Thursday, February 28, 2008

Come this Saturday, No. 16 Notre Dame will know exactly where it stands among the best in the nation.

That’s because the Irish will host No. 2 Georgia Tech at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Irish twice last year, both times by the score of 4-2.

The first loss to the Yellow Jackets came last February in the ITA National Women’s Indoor championship game, and the second also ended hopes for some hardware, occurring last May in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Despite the previous losses to the Yellow Jackets, Irish coach Jay Louderback doesn’t feel as though there are any hard feelings between the teams – he simply wants his team to play well and come out with a win.

“I don’t think there is any bad blood,” Louderback said. “They won the NCAAs last year, so they were a very good team. They have great depth all around so we are going to have to be playing our best. They have one player who is the sixth-best in the nation. They’re very good.”

One aspect that the Irish will need to execute in is their doubles play. After winning six straight doubles points in as many matches, Notre Dame dropped the crucial point against North Carolina. Coach Louderback is looking to regain the doubles momentum, and stressed this in practice all week.

“Doubles play is going to be very big against them,” he said. “If we can’t get the point, winning four singles matches against [Georgia Tech] is going to be really tough. We’ve been playing really well in doubles. Against North Carolina we were just playing tired. We had a couple of tough matches before that so we were a little fatigued, but I’m happy where we’re at with our doubles.”

The No. 3 doubles tandem in the nation of junior Kelcy Tefft and senior Brook Buck has been on a hot streak. With a Tefft-Buck win early on in the match, the Irish could build some momentum and begin a possible upset.

When Louderback thinks of the pair, he is reminded of another storied Notre Dame duo before them. Catrina and Christian Thompson both graduated in 2007, and twice in their careers held the No. 1 ranking in the nation as a doubles team.

“They’re excellent for us,” Louderback said. “They just understand each other very well. They actually remind me of when we had the Thompson’s. When we had them we felt like they could go out and get us a point any time and Kelcy and Brook are the same. They have stepped it up every time we go out, and the other girls really look to them to get things started.”

Tefft has also been impressive in singles play, amassing an 11-2 overall record in the dual match season thus far. Coupled with the notable play of sophomore Kali Krisik, who has 12 dual match wins to lead the Irish, the Yellow Jackets could face some stiff competition this weekend.

After the Georgia Tech match, Notre Dame must shift its focus to Hawaii. The Irish have a long trip ahead of them to face the Rainbow Warriors at the University of Hawaii Tennis Complex on March 6.

The complex is outdoors and will mark the first time the Irish will play outside all season. “[Hawaii is] good at the top but they don’t have the best depth,” Louderback said. “We haven’t seen them play at all, just their scores. The one thing they do have going for them is that they play outdoors. Since it’s our first outdoor match, we’re flying in early and getting in five days of outdoor practice.”