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ND Women’s Tennis: Young squad fills big shoes

Katie Heit | Monday, August 27, 2012

Despite losing All-American teammates Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews, the Irish have lofty aspirations for their young team as the 2012-13 season begins. With six players returning from the 2012 squad who finished the season with a 21-8 record, there is plenty of experienced talent to lead the Irish.

“It’s hard when you lose your No. 1 and No. 2 players at the same time,” junior Julie Sabacinski said. “I think the players we have returning worked hard this summer and I think we’ll be able to fill the gap that they left.”

Sabacinski said she has high hopes for the new freshmen on the squad, especially walk-on Darby Dawson.

“It’s hard to fill Shannon and Kristy’s shoes, but I think the freshmen we have coming in will do just fine,” Sabacinski said. “It happens to teams all the time and certain people step up and fill those roles.”

Head coach Jay Louderback, now entering his 24th season with the Irish, has seen great success behind the helm. The 2012 season brought his fifth straight Big East championship, as well as a perfect 5-0 record in conference play. His players do not take this constant success lightly and are eager to continue the reign of the Irish.

Heading the race for success are new co-captains, senior Chrissie McGaffigan and junior Jennifer Kellner. Sabacinski said that she sees great leadership qualities in the experienced duo.

“Jenny’s always really organized and motivated,” Sabacinski said. “She’s one of the hardest-working girls I’ve ever met. There’s no slacking with her. And Chrissie’s so enthusiastic and so eager to lead that team that I really think she’ll do great.”

Sabacinski said despite the early start to the season, the girls have already established team goals for both fall and spring competition. At the top of the list is a sixth straight Big East championship and a successful trip to the NCAA tournament.

The Irish face an abnormal schedule this fall season, featuring more individual tournaments than Notre Dame usually attends. The players will have the opportunity to prove themselves apart from their team against some of the best competition in the country, culminating in the National Individual Indoor Championship on Nov. 8-11.

Sabacinski said she sees the Indoor Championships as an important goal for the team this season, as the Irish have fallen short from qualifying two years in a row.

Notre Dame looks to continue the Irish legacy Sept. 28 with the Indiana Invitational in Bloomington, Ind.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu