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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish assistant coach uses experience to help team

Matthew Robison | Thursday, March 31, 2011

Under the lights in College Station, Texas, in the spring of 2009, junior Shannon Mathews — then just a freshman — took Notre Dame to where it had never been before: the semifinals of the NCAA championships. For third-year Irish assistant coach Julia Scaringe, that was the highlight of her coaching career.

But Scaringe does not consider Notre Dame’s semifinals berth — a feat the Irish accomplished last season as well — an anomaly. Rather, she sees it as motivation.

“I see [the Irish] returning [to the semifinals] and taking it to the next level,” Scaringe said. “It motivates you even more once you’ve been there and know what it’s like.”

Scaringe, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined the Notre Dame coaching staff in 2008 after playing for four years with the Gators and coaching as an assistant at Harvard. Scaringe brings a player’s perspective to the sideline.

At Florida, Scaringe competed in the No. 1 singles spot, currently ranks No. 11 all-time in combined singles and doubles victories, won a national championship and two Southeastern Conference titles and was named the ITA South Region Player of the Year in 2003.

As a junior, she played in all four junior Grand Slam events and climbed to No. 54 in the world rankings in singles and No. 42 in doubles.

So when Scaringe coaches her players against some of the stiffest competition in the country, she is teaching from a position of experience.

“I’ve walked in their shoes,” Scaringe said. “I know what it’s like to be on the court and be under pressure.”

Despite being at two of the country’s premier programs as a player and coach, Scaringe believes there is something special about being a part of the tradition at Notre Dame.

“I think everything about this place makes it different — the tradition, the history, the environment,” Scaringe said. “It’s a tight-knit community. That’s a feeling you can’t duplicate anywhere else.”

What sets this year’s Irish squad apart from those Scaringe has been a member and coach of in the past is how close she is with the team.

“We have a really good time with each other,” Scaringe said.

Although the Irish have suffered some tough losses on the road, the spirit of camaraderie that the players carry has held them together.

The newcomers on the team have also added a different element to team dynamics.

“It’s a new team,” Scaringe said. “This is the most freshmen I have ever coached.”

That youth is part of the reason Scaringe pictures Notre Dame being a force in collegiate tennis for years to come. She said they would create a strong team atmosphere both in the locker room and on the road.

Notre Dame will next play Long Beach State in the Eck Tennis Center Friday at 4 p.m.