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Women’s Tennis: Notre Dame plays for spot in championships

Vicky Jacobsen | Friday, January 25, 2013

The Irish will make their first trip to Nebraska in the hopes of earning a berth at the national indoor championship.

No. 22 Georgia Tech (1-0, 1-0 ACC) and No. 23 Tennessee (0-0) will join the No. 18 Irish (2-0, 0-0 Big East) and No. 17 Cornhuskers (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) in Lincoln, Neb., for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-off Weekend. Notre Dame will play the Yellow Jackets in the first round Saturday, and the winner will face the victor of the Nebraska/Tennessee match in the final Saturday afternoon. The winner of the final will move on to the ITA National Indoor Championship, which will be held in Charlottesville, Va., in early February.

With all four teams ranked within six spots of each other, Irish coach Jay Louderback said there’s no favorite going into the weekend.

“All four teams have a chance to win,” Louderback said.

Although the Irish won their home dual meet against the Yellow Jackets by a score of 4-3 last February, bringing the series record to 5-2 in the Jackets favor, Georgia Tech has been next to unbeatable in these qualifying tournaments in recent years. The Yellow Jackets have made seven straight trips to the national indoor championship, which they won in both 2007 and 2008. Their squad also won the 2007 NCAA tennis title, the first NCAA title in Georgia Tech history.

Although the Irish are currently ranked above Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets have the No. 1 freshman class in the country according to TennisRecruiting.Net. Still, the Irish said they are ready for the challenge now that they’ve gotten their post-winter break jitters out of their systems with wins over Bowling Green and then No. 24 Illinois.

“Even though the meet we are going to this weekend is pretty early on in the year, it is an extremely important one,” senior Chrissie McGaffigan said. “Our past matches with [Georgia Tech] have always been extremely close. A win for us would provide us great momentum and confidence.”

Junior Jennifer Kellner heads into the competition as the Big
East women’s player of the week after winning all three of her matches against Bowling Green and Illinois last weekend.

“Jen had a great week, so it’s fitting she received the award,” Louderback said. “She’s worked hard to play high in our singles lineup.”

Kellner, though, is just focusing on the weekend’s competition.

“I’d love to win my matches and contribute to the two wins that could take us to the national indoor tournament this year,” Kellner said. “I think this weekend will be a good opportunity for all of us.”

The Irish will be the first on the court this weekend, kicking off the competition at 11 a.m. in the Nebraska Tennis Center. They will return to action the next afternoon, playing either Nebraska or Tennessee.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu