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ND Women’s Tennis: ND claims Big East title, falls in second round of NCAAs

Kelsey Manning | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

After a 21-8 season in which the Irish claimed their fifth-straight Big East title, No. 20 Notre Dame ultimately met disappointment at the hands of No. 12 Northwestern, falling in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Irish started off the spring season 5-3, with two of those three losses coming in close 4-3 decisions, before closing out the season 15-4. In that second stretch, Notre Dame rattled off 11 straight doubles points. Irish coach Jay Louderback said doubles play was a strong point of the season.

“Our doubles was very, very good this year,” Louderback said. “We won the doubles point against some of the top teams in the county.”

Among those teams were No. 18 Vanderbilt, No. 16 Georgia Tech, No. 14 Northwestern, No. 13 North Carolina and No. 3 Duke. Much of that success in the doubles arena can be attributed to the senior co-captains Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews, who were ranked No. 1 in the country in late March.

“[Mathews] and I have worked really hard this year in both doubles and singles, and we just wanted that work ethic to translate into success for the team,” Frilling said. “We won the doubles point the majority of our matches, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact that we had three solid doubles teams.”

Though Frilling and Mathews led the charge in the top doubles spot, Louderback said oftentimes the team did not capitalize after winning the doubles point.

“We worked very hard on the doubles and our doubles has done well but we lost a lot of matches this year after winning the doubles point, which is very disappointing,” he said. “There were quite a few disappointing things from this team, and that was another one. I don’t even want to count how many matches we lost by not being able to win three singles matches.”

Of Notre Dame’s eight losses this season, the team captured the doubles point in five of those matches. Frilling echoed her coach, saying the team often did not capitalize on opportunities like those.

“We didn’t capitalize on many of our opportunities throughout the season, so that was disappointing at times,” the senior said. “But this team has worked really hard this year, both on court and with each other.”

One of the major disappointments came in the team’s 4-2 loss to Northwestern (20-8) in the NCAA tournament Saturday, said Louderback.

“To finish like we did was very, very disappointing,” Louderback said. “We were in complete control of the match, [and] we had kids that didn’t get the job done. Our seniors did very well, but no one gave them any help. They were the only two that got points for us against Northwestern. It was a very disappointing finish.”

Despite the finish, the Irish achieved much this season, both as a team and individually. As the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, the Irish took the title for the fifth-straight year, improving their record in the Big East finals to an impressive 12-5. Frilling was named Most Outstanding Performer in the tournament after going a perfect 3-0 in the finals. For the regular season, Mathews was named Big East Player of the Year, accompanying Louderback, who was named Big East Coach of the Year.

Additionally, Mathews was named an All-American for the first time, while Frilling became the first Notre Dame player to be named an All-American all four years. Mathews will compete in the NCAA singles championship, while she and Frilling will team up in the doubles championship, beginning May 23 and 24 respectively.

“They’ve got a shot of doing really well in the individual and doubles tournaments,” Louderback said.

As for the year to come, Louderback said the future is a bit uncertain for Notre Dame with the loss of its two top players.

“Right now I don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to have to have some kids step up and play because our seniors – our top two – are graduating. We’ve got a couple of freshmen coming in that are good solid players but we’re going to have to have kids that are returning step up and be able to play higher than they did this year. It’s just a matter of them being able to do it. It’s just such a disappointing finish, to have kids do well and then just let it slip.”

Contact Kelsey Manning at kmannin3@nd.edu