Women’s Tennis: No. 1 team comes into town
Dan Masterton | Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Something is going to have to give this afternoon as the No. 1 Northwestern bring its 13-game win streak to Notre Dame to face the No. 20 Irish (16-7) and their nine-game win streak.
Northwestern’s only loss of the season came at the hands of No. 2 Georgia Tech in the finals of the National Team Indoors in early February. The Wildcats (19-1) have been ranked No. 1 in six straight national polls dating back to Feb. 20 when Georgia Tech was ranked first.
Irish coach Jay Louderback recognizes this is the biggest game of the year so far and expects it to have a special atmosphere.
“It definitely will have a postseason feel. They’re in the same spot we were in at this point last year,” Louderback said.
On April 9, 2007, the Irish were 20-1, in the midst of a 15-game winning streak, and had already defeated Northwestern, 4-3. Later, in their second meeting of the season, the Wildcats got their revenge with a 5-2 win.
“It should be a great match and our kids are really excited,” Louderback said. “They did a great job the last couple matches not looking ahead to Northwestern. They’ve talked a little bit the last few days, and they are definitely ready for it.”
Louderback is fully aware of the elite competition coming into town but knows few teams are perfect. “They’re really good at the top – their top three are all ranked nationally, and they’re deep,” he said. “They have been switching their doubles around, so I think winning the doubles point will be the key for us because our doubles [teams] have been really good the last half of the season.”
Northwestern’s top three singles players are nationally-ranked No. 3 Maria Mosolova, a freshman from Moscow, No. 5 junior Georgia Rose, and No. 25 sophomore Samantha Murray.
In addition, the Wildcats have sophomore Lauren Lui who, at No. 42, is their fourth best singles player. For comparison, Notre Dame’s singles attack, which is strong and has consistently been winning five or six points a match, boasts just two ranked players – No. 41 junior Kelcy Tefft and No. 122 sophomore Cosmina Ciobanu.
The Irish lineup shifted around for the 6-1 win over Syracuse on Sunday because Louderback opted to have Tefft sit-out per NCAA rules for playing too many matches in the fall.
The lineup shift moved sophomore Kali Krisik up to No. 1 doubles alongside senior captain Brook Buck and put freshman Denise Ellison on the court for the first time this dual season alongside junior Katie Potts.
Sophomore Colleen Rielley and Ciobanu stayed together in the No. 2 slot, and all three pairs triumphed. Ellison also made her singles debut in the No. 6 hole, losing in three sets, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-10), 1-0 (11-9).
Louderback was pleased with Ellison’s performance.
“It was great for her to get her first match in. She played really well in doubles and just lost a close one in singles,” he said. “I think a lot of that was just it being her first singles match, but it was great for her see what it’s like playing out there.”
The shuffling also pushed Buck into No. 1 singles, and she triumphed easily 6-0, 6-1. The team is deep and even, but the prominent senior leadership of Buck is undeniable.
“She played well in singles and did great in doubles, too. She and Kali [Krisik] had not played together besides one match in the fall, but [Brook] did great in both,” Louderback said.
The team’s momentum has led to clinching matches early, but Louderback said the competition has been anything but weak and likes that his players keep the pressure on all match long.
“We’ve had a couple of matches recently that we’ve won 6-1 and 7-0 that were still good matches – Indiana, Iowa, and Syracuse. Especially in the Iowa match, we just played really well,” Louderback said.
The growing momentum has also coincided with the matches starting to move outdoors. The Irish success outside serves as good preparation for the outdoor venues of postseason play.
“All our singles players have looked good, and we’ve played so well in the doubles, too. The opportunity to get outside and play some outdoors matches has been good and will really help us,” Louderback said.
Wednesday at 3:30 at Courtney Tennis Center, the Irish will try to notch their first win in school history over the No. 1 team in the country.