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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish top Tennessee

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, February 4, 2013

Their match took longer than expected, but the Irish defeated Tennessee at home by a score of 4-3.

The dual meet at Eck Tennis Pavilion began at 9 a.m. Sunday and was supposed to be finished by noon, when the Irish men’s team was scheduled to have its match. But, at 1 p.m., the No. 18 Irish (4-1) and No. 25 Lady Vols (0-4) were still locked at 2-2, and the crowd looked on as Irish sophomore Molly O’Koniewski beat Tennessee freshman Tiffany Tavares 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 and Notre Dame freshman Quinn Gleason persevered for a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win over Lady Vols sophomore Caitlyn Williams.

“We knew it was going to be close,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “I didn’t see much of Molly’s match, but Quinn Gleason did a great job at the end of her match. [Williams] got it back to five-all [in the third set], and Quinn played two great games.”

The Irish have now played in four straight matches where the outcome was determined by one point.

“We’ve played a tough schedule already, a lot of top-25 teams, and every match is going to be like that,” Louderback said. “Tennessee is 0-4, and they’ve lost four 4-3 matches.”

Although the result of the match was in doubt until the very end, Louderback said the doubles point, contested hours earlier, played a huge role in the outcome.

 “We knew going in that it was going to be hard for any team to win four singles matches, because we’re so evenly matched,” Louderback said. 

O’Koniewski and junior Julie Sabacinski swept Tennessee sophomore Jesse Grace and freshman Mimi Fotopoulos, 8-0, in No. 3 doubles, and the Lady Vols’ No. 12 duo of junior Brynn Boren and senior Kata Szekely beat junior Jennifer Kellner and senior Chrissie McGaffigan, 8-2. Although Gleason and junior Britney Sanders had earlier fallen behind 4-1 in their doubles match against the No. 41 duo of Williams and sophomore Joanna Henderson, the Irish rallied to grab the 8-6 doubles win and the first point of the match.

The Irish lost two of their first three singles matches. In the No. 1 position 23rd-ranked Boren defeated Sanders and Kellner fell to No. 25 Szekely, both by scores of 6-3, 6-2. McGaffigan claimed another point for the Irish with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Henderson.

Although Sabacinski lost to Fotopoulos in two sets, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), theirs was the last match to finish. The closely-matched players had a hard time building the two-point lead needed to win a game, and Louderback said the match was halted twice when the players didn’t agree on the score.

Within minutes of Sabacinski’s loss, the Irish gathered their things and prepared to board a bus to Iowa, where the Irish will play the second of back-to-back dual matches.

“[Iowa] has a couple of new kids that we haven’t seen, and their No. 1 girl [junior Ruth Seaborne] played at Florida State last year and transferred,” Louderback said. “So we thing they’re going to be tough, and I think on the road after playing today the doubles will be a key again tomorrow.”

Today’s match will be the home opener for the Hawkeyes (1-0), who beat Iowa State 6-1 on Jan. 26.

“It’s going to be another good one,” Louderback said. “We had a pretty solid, tight match with them last year, and at their place I think it’s going to be good.”

Notre Dame and Iowa will face off at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex in Iowa City, Iowa, at 4 p.m. today.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu