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ND Women’s Tennis: Boiling Point

Dan Masterton | Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The No. 20 Irish will put their six-game winning streak on the line today in West Lafayette, Ind., against Purdue.

The Boilermakers (3-10) are amidst a rough season but are coming off a solid win. After being swept 7-0 by No. 1 Northwestern last Tuesday, Purdue rebounded to upend Wisconsin, 4-3 on Sunday.

The Irish (13-7) took on the Badgers in February, but Notre Dame’s victory was more decisive – the Irish swept Wisconsin as part of a three-game win streak.

Purdue’s singles players are 0-9 this season against ranked opponents. They face a tough challenge in Notre Dame’s strong, deep singles attack – the Irish boast three ranked singles players with No. 38 junior Kelcy Tefft, No. 105 sophomore Cosmina Ciobanu, and No. 114 sophomore Kali Krisik.

Though Purdue has struggled on the season, Irish coach Jay Louderback is not underestimating the Boilermakers.

“We’ve lost to Purdue a few times over the last few years, and we’ve had so many close matches this year that our kids are smart enough not to overlook anybody,” Louderback said.

The unranked Irish players’ strong play gives the singles attack depth. Senior Brook Buck is on a personal five-game win streak, and junior Katie Potts has won two singles matches in a row.

Notre Dame’s double play is just as strong as its singles, led by the No. 1 pair of Buck and Tefft and the No. 50 pair of sophomore Colleen Rielley and Ciobanu. No. 3 doubles has seen change as freshman Kristen Rafael is out with a an injury.

At Southern Methodist last week, Krisik and Rielley teamed up at the No. 2 position to notch an 8-2 win while Potts and Ciobanu did not play at the No. 3 position, winning by default due to the Mustangs short-handed lineup.

Ciobanu rejoined Rielley at the No. 2 spot for the match against Indiana, picking up a win to improve to 13-1 while Krisik and Potts lost their match in a tiebreaker.

Louderback has not committed to using just one lineup in Rafael’s absence. He remains unsure exactly what he will do against Purdue.

“We did have to switch a bit with the doubles, but I think Katie [Potts] will be fine in doubles,” Louderback said. “She just had not played [doubles] in a while. Getting matches under her belt in doubles will help her out a lot.”

As for Rafael, she will certainly be out for at least tomorrow’s match but may return this weekend.

“She’s getting better. She won’t be back [Wednesday] but hopefully Friday or Sunday,” Louderback said. “We’re hoping to get her to at least play doubles if not singles. She’s itching to get out there. ”

Rafael has played five times in singles, going 3-2 in the No. 6 slot, but contributes most in doubles, most often alongside Krisik. That pair is 6-5 for the dual season.

In addition to Rafael, some of the players are a little bruised or battered, but for the most part, Louderback does not plan to schedule any days off for his players.

“We will have to sit Kelcy Tefft once since she played one too many matches in the fall because of the National Indoors,” he said. “Really, right now, we don’t have that much longer until the Big East [tournament], and they all really want to play.”

That one-game suspension was levied against Tefft and Buck who, by way of winning the lengthy National Indoor doubles tournament, exceeded the maximum amount of matches allowed. Buck served her suspension earlier while injured, but Louderback has yet to sit Tefft.

After today’s match at Purdue, the Irish travel to Iowa City, Iowa to face the No. 45 Hawkeyes on Sunday. From there, the Irish return home for four home games in eight days beginning with Syracuse next Tuesday to close the regular season.