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ND Women’s Tennis: Lone senior adjusts to leading role

Katie Heit | Tuesday, January 22, 2013

After watching her three older sisters play Division I tennis in the Big Ten, senior Chrissie McGaffigan had big shoes to fill when she first took to the court for the Irish.

McGaffigan, who was named a co-captain this year along with junior Jennifer Kellner, said she broke away from the rest of the family when she chose a school outside of the Big Ten, but the decision paid off. Now early in her final season, McGaffigan said she is ready to give the Irish (2-0) everything she has.

“It’s bittersweet going into spring knowing it’s my last season,” McGaffigan said. “I’ve been trying to put it all out on the line.”

To improve her game going into her final season, McGaffigan spent extra hours with assistant coach Kelcy Flores in private lessons. Her dedication to the team and to improving her own game has not gone unnoticed by her teammates.

“There hasn’t been a day when she gave less than 100 percent in practice,” junior Britney Sanders said. “She has proven to fight for every match.”

As the only senior on the team and one of the captains, McGaffigan has begun to adapt to her leadership role on the team. She attributes how she behaves as a captain to the role models she has had in the past.

“All three previous years I’ve had great captains to look up to,” McGaffigan said. “They’ve been really great role models for me. The girls on the team also expect good things of me, so I think I’ve come into my role well.”

McGaffigan, who hails from Davenport, Iowa, claimed her place in the starting lineup as a freshman when she earned the title of Big East Freshman of the Year, finishing with a 16-10 singles record. In her second year with the Irish, McGaffigan finished 20-15 in singles, splitting her time between the No. 4 and the No. 5 spots. Last year at No. 5 singles, McGaffigan finished 19-14, but her real success came in doubles with Kellner. Together, Kellner and McGaffigan went 28-8, the best doubles record for the Irish in 2012, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. McGaffigan has also been named to the Big East Academic All-Star Team three years in a row.

Overall, however, McGaffigan said her greatest accomplishment is the development in the type of player she has become.

“The coaches have really helped me adapt to college tennis,” McGaffigan said. “I think now they’ve helped me with my game so that I can adapt to whoever I’m playing and if one thing isn’t working I can turn to another strategy.”

When the season ends, so will McGaffigan’s competitive career, as she pursues a career in marketing. However, McGaffigan said tennis will always play a part in her life.

“My entire family plays tennis, as well,” McGaffigan said. “When we get together we all definitely make it out to the courts to have a little fun out there.”

Until her career as a college tennis player is over, McGaffigan said she is still focused on this season and on leading her team to the Final Four.

McGaffigan and the Irish are next in action Saturday when they face Georgia Tech in Lincoln, Neb., at 3 p.m.

Contact Katie Heit at kheit@nd.edu