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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish host first meet since big Vanderbilt upset

Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Irish will face two talented rivals from different conferences this weekend, with matches against North Carolina and Illinois at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Saturday’s match against No. 13 North Carolina (6-4, 1-0 ACC) will be the first for the No. 23 Irish (5-2, 1-0 Big East) since they upset No. 18 Vanderbilt on Feb. 5 in Nashville.

“We are playing two tough teams this weekend, but we have been working hard in practice and the coaches have been preparing us for what to expect,” junior Chrissie McGaffigan said. “We hope to build momentum from our upset win at Vanderbilt.”

The Tar Heels have been ranked in the top-10 nationally for much of the season, but fell from the No. 8 spot after two losses over the weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Despite their recent struggles, Irish coach Jay Louderback said the Tar Heels are an elite opponent.

“They got a win over Tennessee who we lost to, so they’re going to be tough,” he said. “They’ve got good doubles teams and they compete really well. We always, when we play Carolina, we always have just tough matches.”

Louderback also said he expects a challenge from Illinois (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) because of his ties to the Illinois coach Michelle Dasso.

“They’re always a tough regional team. Their coach played for me and was my assistant, and so when we play then she always has them ready. They always play really well against us,” Louderback said. “They aren’t ranked as highly, but it’ll be a tough match.”

The Fighting Illini come into the match with momentum from a Feb. 3 home win over Southern Methodist. The Illini have only dropped one singles match at home so far this semester — to SMU No. 1 singles player Edyta Cieplucha — but have not been as dominant on the road.

Although the matches fall on Junior Parents Weekend, Louderback said the event should not have a large impact on the matches. McGaffigan is the only junior on the squad. When asked if the team was preparing anything for JPW, Louderback said they only planned on winning.

Notre Dame will take on the Tar Heels at 11 a.m. Saturday and face the Illini at 12 p.m Sunday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.