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ND Women’s Tennis: Notre Dame drops first match of season

Megan Finneran and Matt Robison | Sunday, January 30, 2011

The No. 4 Irish went 1-1 at the ITA National Team Indoor qualifying tournament this weekend as they swept Yale 7-0 Saturday but fell 4-3 to No. 23 Arkansas Sunday in the championship round at the Eck Tennis Center.

Sunday’s loss was the team’s first loss of the season.

“We’re all definitely really bummed about the loss. I think that we all have a lot to take from the matches both team-wise and individually, and I think we’re all really working on moving forward,” junior Kristy Frilling said.

After easily winning both the doubles and singles points Saturday, where the team two of the three doubles competitions and all six singles matches, Notre Dame was faced with a much stronger opponent in Arkansas and fell behind early, losing the doubles point.

The first sign of defeat came when the No. 1 doubles pair of Frilling and junior Shannon Mathews struggled against the Razorback duo of Claudine Paulson and Anouk Tigu, losing 8-2. Notre Dame’s No. 2 doubles pair, senior Kristen Rafael and freshman Julie Sabacinski, was unable to defeat Arkansas’s Jade Frampton and Valentina Starkova, falling 7-4 after taking a 4-1 lead at the beginning of the match. The final doubles match went unfinished, as Arkansas had already taken the doubles point, despite by the Irish pair of freshman Jennifer Kellner and sophomore Chrissie McGaffigan’s 6-5 lead against Razorbacks Kate Lukomskaya and Stephanie Roy.

Although Sunday pointed out some of the squad’s weaknesses, Irish coach Jay Louderback said he is hopeful for improvement.

“We just got a little bit tight. As we played higher ranked teams, that’s not going to be good, so hopefully we’ll play a little better,” he said.

The Irish secured three of the six singles victories, but not enough to take the final decision. Mathews began the string of success, taking Lukomskaya, 6-1, 6-0. Rafael, however, fell in both sets to Arkansas’s Emily Cabone, 6-3, 6-0.

Ninth-ranked Frilling had little trouble with No. 26 Tigu once they played one-on-one, taking her singles sets, 6-3, 6-1, after Tigu experienced an ankle injury in the first set. Sabacinski continued the momentum by defeating Starkova, 6-4, 6-1. After that, the Notre Dame’s luck ran out when McGaffigan fell to Paulson in the No. 4 match, 6-2, 6-4, and Kellner fell 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 to Roy, despite an early lead, at No. 5.

The Irish entered the championship match with great energy after easily triumphing over 47th-ranked Yale the day before. They won two of the three doubles competitions to earn the doubles point before sweeping all six singles matches.

Doubles competition began with Rafael and Sabacinski in No. 3 doubles, where they they flew past the Bulldogs’ Elizabeth Epstein and Kim Szokol, 8-1. Frilling and Mathews secured the doubles victory for the Irish after a successful 8-5 match against Vicky Brook and Lindsay Clark, pulling ahead after a 4-4 tie in the middle of the set. With the doubles point already landed, McGaffigan and Kellner’s 8-7 loss to Stephanie Kent and Annie Sullivan did not affect the overall score.

“Our No. 3 team lost last week at Illinois and we’ve worked with them a lot this week and they’ve played much better. They hadn’t played together before so it was a new experience,” Louderback said. “They played much better this week which was exciting.”

Frilling coasted past Brook in the No. 1 singles, taking the sets 6-1 and 6-2. McGaffigan found her first victory of the season at No. 4, taking Sullivan 6-2 in both sets. Rafael closed out the match for the Irish at number three, defeating freshman Blair Seiderman, 6-1, 7-5.

With the victory already in hand, Mathews triumphed over Epstein, 6-0, 7-6, Kellner took Stevi Petrelli 1-6, 6-2,1-0, and Sabacinski closed out the day with 7-6, 6-3 against Szokol.

“The two singles that lost last week won today, which was good. It was their first match of the year so it was good for them to bounce back,” Louderback said of Saturday’s play.

Notre Dame will travel to North Carolina this week, where they will face the University of North Carolina Saturday and Wake Forest Sunday.