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ND Women’s Tennis: Irist enter tourney on top

Alex Barker | Friday, April 17, 2009

For the 13th time in the past 14 seasons, No. 4 Notre Dame will enter the Big East Championship tournament as the top seed as it begins its run for a second straight title today in Tampa, Fla.

The Irish (21-4, 3-0 Big East) earned an opening round bye as a top-four seed and will take the court for the first time today at 9 a.m. against Pittsburgh. The Panthers knocked off Cincinnati 4-3 in first round competition yesterday.

The Irish have had good success in this position, taking eight titles in 12 previous tries as the top seed, but coach Jay Louderback isn’t getting caught up in hype.

“Our goal is to win the Big East so we really don’t worry about the seedings,” he said. “We will have to beat the best teams to win it.”

Notre Dame has handily defeated each of its conference opponents so far this season and the team knows what stands in the way of another title.

“We had 5-2 matches with both South Florida and DePaul so we know they are very good,” Louderback said. “There are also some other good teams we could face in the draw.”

For the most part, when the Irish have played well this season, they have come away with the victory. And the key to their success has undoubtedly been the doubles portion of the match. The team is 1-3 on the season in matches where it hasn’t clinched the doubles point. Louderback knows how much it means to his team to get started on the right foot.

“We really want to start each match out well in the doubles,” he said. “We are just going to worry about how we play and not our opponents.”

The Irish have had a tremendous season thus far and have high expectations for the postseason. After beginning the season ranked outside the top-15, the Irish wasted little time climbing up to the No. 3 spot after victories over Stanford and Baylor in the ITA National Indoor championships in February.

“We have had a really good year up to this point,” said Louderback. “Our schedule was very tough and I think our kids did a great job each time we played.”

If the heavily favored Irish get past Pittsburgh, they will move on to face the winner of the Marquette-Rutgers matchup in the quarterfinals on Saturday.