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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish use loss as inspiration prior to double home matches

Kelsey Manning | Thursday, February 23, 2012

In their second of three consecutive home weekends, the No. 23 Irish will take on two formidable opponents — No. 16 Georgia Tech and a No. 74 Indiana squad on the rise.

Notre Dame (6-3, 1-0 Big East) battled through two 4-3 decisions last weekend, falling to No. 13 North Carolina on Saturday before turning around to top No. 57 Illinois on Sunday.

Irish coach Jay Louderback said the loss to North Carolina helped his team refocus in practice this week.

“It was a tough one just because we definitely had chances to win,” he said. “We lost at a few positions we’ve been winning at, and those kids were really not happy with losing. I think that’s something that they didn’t like, and I think it was pretty motivating.

“We had really good practices all week, and I think that was a lot of it — knowing we were right there with UNC and definitely could have won that match.”

Though the Hoosiers (8-2) arrive in South Bend today as a team that has just recently cracked the top-75 for the first time this season, their ranking belies their talent, Louderback said.

“[Indiana] is a good team. They beat DePaul who’s ranked. But that’s the only ranked team they’ve really beaten so they just haven’t played a really tough schedule so far,” he said. “I would put them pretty even with Illinois right now, and we had a tough match with Illinois over the weekend. I think they’ll be anywhere from No. 25 to No. 40 this year. They’re very good, they just haven’t played the schedule yet. So it should be a really good match.”

This will not be Notre Dame’s first encounter with the Hoosiers, as a few Irish players saw Indiana players in individual fall tournaments. At the Indiana Invitational on Sept. 25, both junior Chrissie McGaffigan and sophomore Julie Sabacinski dropped two-set matches to Indiana freshmen Alecia Kauss and Katie Klyczek, respectively. McGaffigan will get another shot at Kauss at the five spot today.

“Our kids know they’re going to be good,” Louderback said.

The Irish will have one day to recover before they take on Georgia Tech (4-4). The Yellow Jackets have a .500 record. Their only dual match losses have come from Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and UCLA – all teams ranked in top 13.

“[Georgia Tech] played in the [ITA National Team Indoor Championships] and they went 0-3, but they lost three tough matches, but they’re good,” Louderback said. “They’re a legitimate top 20 team, so for us it’ll be two really tough matches this weekend.”

A major focus for the Irish will be the elusive doubles point. Despite boasting the No. 3 doubles team in the country with seniors Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews, Notre Dame’s doubles play has not been as consistent as anticipated, Louderback said.

“Going into the year, we really felt like [doubles] would be our strength,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s been — it just hasn’t been consistent. [For example], we won at No. 1 and No. 2 against North Carolina, and then we turn around the next day and lose at No. 1 and No. 2 to Illinois. And we lost at No. 3 to North Carolina and we beat Illinois at No. 3, so it’s been a little inconsistent.

“We haven’t played big points really well in the doubles, and it’s definitely something we’ve been working on a lot.”

The Irish will look to build off a week of practice as they take on Indiana today at 3 p.m. and Georgia Tech on Sunday at 9 a.m., both at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.



Contact Kelsey Manning at kmannin3@nd.edu