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ND Women’s Tennis: Team to play first outdoor matches

Molly Sammon | Thursday, March 4, 2010

No. 3 Notre Dame hopes to continue both its seven-match win streak and its upward climb in the rankings by beating each of the three teams it will play over Spring Break.

The Irish (10-1) have improved on their preseason ranking by 14 spots.

Before they leave South Bend, the Irish will host Indiana Friday in their sixth straight home match. The Hoosiers (10-2) fell out of the rankings last week and are unranked for the first time this season. Despite falling in the rankings, the Hoosiers boast a three-match win streak that includes a victory over No. 11 Tennessee.

“We’re both in the state, and we usually have the best two teams in the state,” Louderback said. “We have always played good matches against each other.”

Notre Dame will then travel to Puerto Rico, where it will play matches against William & Mary and No. 8 Duke for its first outdoor matches of the 2010 season.

“Southern teams are tough to play early because they’ve been outside and we haven’t been,” Louderback said.

This change will be an important predictor of Notre Dame’s ability to prepare itself for the hot weather and outside conditions they will be facing for the rest of the season.

“It’s so different when you have sun and wind, the ball doesn’t travel as quickly. The courts tend to be a little slower,” Louderback said. “It gives us a week of training in 80-degree weather which is what we’ll experience in the NCAAs.”

The Irish will play William & Mary (5-6) Tuesday. Though the Tribe have struggled this season, Louderback cites their age and experience as big factors that make the them a legitimate opponent for the Irish.

“We haven’t played them in a while, but they have some older kids and they’ve got experience,” Louderback said. “Their results have been up and down.”

Before returning home, the Irish will play their third match of the break against the Blue Devils. Though Duke (10-2) still presents a considerable threat to Notre Dame’s almost perfect season, the Blue Devils are coming off of a crucial loss to No. 6 Florida.

“Duke is the team that won the NCAAs last year, and they could win it again this year,” Louderback said. “They’re one of the teams capable of winning the whole thing. It’s going to be a big match us, and it will be a good test for us outdoors.”

To prepare for the upcoming matches, the Irish took a two-day break from practicing to recuperate from last week’s busy schedule. The players were back on the courts Wednesday, working on different areas of their game to prepare for the competition ahead.

“We worked again on our doubles, and it’s something we need to get better at to be able to win down the road,” Louderback said. “We’ve done well, but I think we can do better.”

The status of injured senior Kali Krisik is still up in the air. Krisik is hoping to be able to play by the Indiana game, but will have to wait and see if her health will allow it. Until then, junior Kristen Rafael will assume her position in both doubles and singles play.

“Rafael played very well, she did a great job stepping in even when we didn’t have a chance to have her practice with anyone,” Louderback said.    

The Irish welcome Indiana Friday to the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 3 p.m.