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ND Women’s Tennis: Notre Dame looks to clinch tourney berth

Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Irish head to Michigan this weekend in hopes of earning a ticket to the National Team Indoor Championships.

No. 21 Notre Dame will face No. 35 Yale in the first round of the qualifying tournament, which will follow a dual-match format. The winner of Saturday’s matchup will play the winner of No. 10 Michigan and No. 40 Maryland the next day for a spot in the national tournament, which will take place in Charlottesville, Va. in February.

Irish coach Jay Louderback said the Irish should not be surprised by their first round opponent, who they defeated 7-0 early last season.

“We played Yale last year, so we know a lot of their kids and they’re very deep. Their entire team’s back and they have a couple freshmen in,” Louderback said. “We had close, tight matches with them last year, so we’re looking forward to a really good match. They have all three doubles teams in the rankings. But I think their big thing is just their depth; it is very, very good.”

The Bulldogs’ three ranked doubles teams will be a challenge for the Irish doubles pairings, one of Notre Dame’s greatest strengths.

“I think one of the things that’s going to be really good for us this year is our doubles,” Louderback said. “We’ve always had good doubles teams but this year we have the chance to have one of the best doubles lineups we’ve had.”

If the Irish beat Yale, they are likely to face the hosting Wolverines in the final.

“We lost to them last year; they’re ranked No. 10 right now in the preseason,” Louderback said. “They’ve got a young team — they have three freshmen, either two or three that’ll play in their line-up. One of them is playing No. 1 for them; she won our regionals and is very, very good. Even though they lost three seniors and brought in the three freshmen, they are as good if not better this year, I think.”

Notre Dame last qualified for the National Team Indoors three years ago, but Louderback said that the qualifying tournament will serve a useful purpose even if the Irish don’t win.

“The winner of this goes to the Indoor, so there is a little bit more at stake right now compared to other early-season matches,” Louderback said. “But for us, I think most of the team is looking at it as a chance to get in two really good dual matches early. A lot of kids tend to play better once they’ve gotten to play a little longer, so playing two tough ones this early is not easy but it gives us a chance to get some good matches in and then also we’re hoping our kids just compete very well.”

The Irish will take on Yale in Ann Arbor, Mich. at 2 p.m. Saturday.