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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish seek conference championship

Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, April 20, 2012

The No. 17 Irish are aiming to claim their fifth straight conference championship and sixth in seven years at the Big East championships in Tampa, Fla., this weekend.

The Irish (17-7, 5-0 Big East) are the No. 1 -seed in the tournament, the 16th time they’ve earned that seeding since they joined the Big East seventeen years ago. The team has gone on to win the title in 11 of those years and has never failed to reach the championship match.

The top 12 teams in the conference received invitations to play in the four-round tournament that began yesterday on South Florida’s campus. As the No. 1 -seed, Notre Dame earned a bye in the first round and will face eighth-seeded Rutgers Friday at 9 a.m. Rutgers moved into the second round with a 4-3 win over No. 9 -seed Cincinnati on Thursday.

“They’ll definitely be ready to compete and they’ll be a tough opponent, so everyone’s trying their best,” senior co-captain Shannon Mathews said. “We’re the No. 1 -seed so everyone’s running and gunning for us, so we’re going to try and come out as strong as possible, especially with that doubles point.”

Notre Dame comes into the tournament with an impressive record overall and a perfect record in the conference, but winning another ring will be far from a cakewalk, Mathews said.

“South Florida’s a two seed, and it’s on their home court so they’re always going to be tough competition for us,” Mathews said. “Syracuse and DePaul are also going to be tough opponents so we probably won’t see any other teams until the finals because they’re on opposite sides of the draw, so it going to be interesting to see.”

If Notre Dame uses its regular season lineup, Mathews and senior co-captain Kristy Frilling will command the No. 1 and 2 courts, respectively. Sophomore Britney Sanders has done the Irish proud on the No. 3 court this season, and sophomore Jennifer Kellner and junior Chrissie McGaffigan have held down the No. 4 and 5 courts. Freshman Katherine White and sophomore Julie Sabacinski have shared time on the No. 6 court, but Sabacinski has been having trouble with injuries and the Irish are waiting until the morning of the match to decide who will play.

Mathews, the reigning Big East player of the week, is Notre Dame’s highest-ranking individual player at No. 32 in the country. She is also one half of the nation’s No. 6 doubles pairing along with her co-captain, Frilling. The two have been very successful on the No. 1 doubles court, while Kellner and McGaffigan have teamed up as the No. 3 doubles team. Sabacinski and White also took turns pairing with Sanders on the No. 2 doubles court, but even though they don’t always play together Sanders and Sabacinski are ranked 63rd in doubles rankings.

This will be the last Big East tournament for Mathews and Frilling.

“To get that fourth ring would be something special,” Mathews said. “We’re going to take it one match at a time but we would love to – and I would love to – get another Big East Championship and finish off my career with four straight championships.”

The Irish will begin Big East championship play against Rutgers Friday at 9 a.m. at the USF Varsity Tennis Center. Semifinal action begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and the finals begin at the same time Sunday morning.


Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu