The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND Women’s Tennis: Sophomores return for second year with increased confidence

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Freshman year of college is all about adjusting to a new lifestyle. But for freshman tennis players, learning to love dining hall food and dorm life is far less a concern than getting used to an entirely new way of playing tennis. Playing tennis as part of a team and playing inside can be equally shocking at Notre Dame.

Last year’s squad had four freshmen — half of the eight-member team. Now that sophomores Jennifer Kellner, JoHanna Manningham, Julie Sabacinski and Britney Sanders have a full year of experience at the collegiate level, Irish coach Jay Louderback expects the team to be stronger physically and mentally.

“At the end of last year I think our kids had really come a long ways as far as competing,” Louderback said. “We had so many freshmen that just weren’t used to college tennis, and it takes them awhile. That’s something we’ll continue with this fall and I feel good about it, since we only have one freshman this year and we have a lot [of athletes] returning.”

Sabacinski agreed that she’s now more prepared to deal with the stress that accompanies matches.

“In pressure situations, I think I’ll be ready way more than I was last year,” Sabacinski said. “Tennis is a very individual sport, and playing as part of a team is hard. It’s a lot more pressure than I expected it to be.”

While Sabacinski and her teammates faced more challenging competition together, the Florida native is one of the few team members who came from an area where tennis could be played outside for the entire year, and was one of the few who was unfamiliar with playing indoors.

“Coming here was the first time I ever played indoor tennis; it was a big change,” Sabacinski said. “The ball is much quicker when you’re inside. It’s a lot faster, for sure.”

Sabacinski’s teammates — even those who grew up in colder areas where indoor tennis was a necessity for year-round play — understand why playing on the indoor courts of the Eck Tennis Center can be difficult for those from the south.

“Playing indoors and outdoors are two completely different games. When you play outdoors there are so many other factors that can affect your play, like wind and sun,” senior Kristy Frilling said. “They may seem like not a big deal, but they can actually really affect how you play. I’m from Ohio so I grew up playing indoor tennis — and I love it.”

Senior Shannon Mathews agreed that adjusting to indoor tennis is a huge part of playing for Notre Dame and other schools with harsh weather.

“A huge part of practice as well as most of our matches that we play toward the beginning of our season are indoors,” Mathews said. “It’s kind of unfortunate because there’s a time or two when you’d like to be outside, but it comes along with going to school here.”

The indoor game is much more difficult for players other than Mathews from southern areas.

“For Julie and Britney and [freshman Katherine White] from Florida, California and Georgia, it’s probably been a little bit different because they’re used to going outside and being outside all the time, but in South Bend it’s a stinky winter and stinky weather for a lot of the year so you have to balance what you can do,” Mathews said.