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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish earn win over Illini

Lorenzo Reyes | Friday, March 14, 2008

Beginning a two-game home stand with a match against Illinois Thursday, No. 23 Notre Dame used clutch performances from its doubles teams to build an early lead and cruise to victory.

Today, the Irish face Western Michigan in an attempt to claim their 10th win of the season and sweep the pair of home matches before embarking on a two-match road trip. The first serve is set for 4 p.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Against the Illini, Notre Dame stuck to what has worked so far this season – dominating of the doubles point. Although Illinois didn’t go quietly, the Irish eventually took all three of the doubles matches, securing the point.

The No. 3 tandem of sophomores Cosmina Ciobanu and Colleen Rielley improved to 10-1 on the year with their 8-5 victory to begin the match. And after freshman Kristen Rafael and sophomore Kali Krisik captured the second match to secure the point, the No. 1 duo in the nation was on display.

Senior Brook Buck and junior Kelcy Tefft won their second match as the nationally top-ranked pair with their 8-6 win over the Illini. Notre Dame took the 1-0 lead heading into singles play, but never looked back, allowing Illinois to only pick up one single point along the way.

Irish head coach Jay Louderback was impressed with his squad’s play against Illinois, specifically their singles play.

“It was good to start the home stand off with a win,” Louderback said. “We came out a little slow in doubles, but stepped it up and won all three matches. But our singles play impressed me the most. We came out strong after our doubles and took five out of a possible six.”

Junior Katie Potts quickly disposed of her opponent, winning 6-4, 6-0, improving her mark to 14-8 overall on the season.

Notre Dame came out firing on all cylinders in the rest of the singles matches winning all six first sets.

After the Potts victory, Ciobanu, Krisk, Tefft and Buck all won their matches to secure the Irish victory.

With the win, Notre Dame improved to 5-1 at home this season, and Louderback can sense the excitement in his players over the home success.

“They love playing here,” he said. “Last season it seemed like we barely had any home games so these little home stands are nice. After the Broncos we go away for a couple of games but then we’re back for a big portion of the rest of March so we’re looking forward to competing at home.”

Although the Irish are coming off of an emotional and challenging match against Illinois, Louderback doesn’t feel as though fatigue will be a factor against Western Michigan.

“I don’t think it will be a factor at all,” he said. “We’ve been playing tough matches all year, and we prepared for stretches like this in the fall so our players will be ready.”

Looking ahead to the Broncos, the one player that sticks out is junior Kerstin Pahl, who is coming off of a solid week, in which she won Mid-American Conference Player of the Week. She joined senior Noriko Saruta as the second Western Michigan player to win the award all season.

“They always play really good doubles,” Louderback said of the Broncos. “I’m expecting a match a lot like Illinois, in which they came out strong so we have to be ready for them. They’re really well coached so you know they’re going to be prepared for us.

“They actually beat Illinois 4-3 earlier in the year so it’s going to be interesting to watch them come in here and play us. We’re just going to have to be ready for them when they come out firing.”