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Irish aim to defend Big East crown

Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, August 26, 2011

Two new names have been added to the Notre Dame roster since last season, but the team’s goals remain unchanged as the Irish aim for their fifth straight Big East title.

“I think all of us have high expectations,” junior Chrissie McGaffigan said. “We’d like to get another Big East title and then, at the end of the year, we’re always driving to be national champions.”

Hired after former assistant Julia Scaringe resigned in July, new assistant coach Kelcy Tefft looks to improve an Irish team that finished last season ranked No. 20 in the nation. Tefft, a 2009 graduate who served as assistant coach at the University of Tulsa for the past two years, is Notre Dame’s all-time leader in wins with 265 victories — 155 of which came in doubles matches. Her resume includes claiming the 2007 National Indoors doubles championship and the 2009 Big East Player of the Year honors.

Tefft also served as the doubles partner of current senior Kristy Frilling and as a teammate of senior Shannon Mathews.

“Both Shannon and I are very excited and happy that Kelcy is coming back to Notre Dame as our assistant coach,” Frilling said. “She has been a great teammate, and we know she will be an even better coach. I was Kelcy’s doubles partner my freshman year, so who would know my game better than her?”

Even team members whose playing time did not overlap with Tefft’s recognize the impact she had on the program and anticipate a strong relationship with their new coach.

“We can look up at the All-American posters while we practice every day and we can see her picture up there and know that she’s accomplished so much, so we’re just really excited to have her on our side,” McGaffigan said. “She’s going to be such an asset to the team.”

The Irish have another newcomer in freshman Katherine White, whose strong serve and impressive doubles play has already caught the eyes of coaches and teammates.

“She’s a good singles player, but she’s a really good doubles player. She’s got a big serve and plays a big game, she hits the ball hard and I think with her once she gets indoors, she’s going to be tough,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “Last year we needed a little more help in our doubles and I think that’s something that she’s going to bring to the team.”

White is excited to be returning to the court after a shoulder injury forced her to sit out for most of the past year, but she has found time to bond with her new teammates.

“She’s just a great girl on and off the court. She’s so much fun to be around. It’s only been two days but she’s already completely fit in,” McGaffigan said. “She’s a great player, a great competitor, and I think she’ll add a lot to the team this year on and off the court.”

New and returning players alike will be using the individualized tournaments of the fall to prepare for the more team-oriented spring season.

“For the fall, our main goal is to get a lot of matches in. [The athletes] practiced a lot over the summer, but not many of them played tournaments,” Louderback said.

“We want them to compete hard every match and not worry about the outcome as much.”

The biggest tournaments of the fall include the All-American in California and the National Indoor in New York, where members of the team will have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the country’s strongest competition.

Frilling and Mathews in particular will be sure to use such opportunities to their fullest advantage during their senior year.

“I know Shannon and I are looking forward to and [are] determined to make our last year here at Notre Dame our best,” Frilling said.