ND Women’s Tennis: Irish begin fall play with separate Invitationals
Samantha Zuba | Sunday, September 22, 2013
The Irish opened their season with success across the board this weekend at both the Wolverine Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Ball State Fall Invite in Muncie, Ind.
Notre Dame split its team up across the two open tournaments to provide the entire roster with opportunities to play and gear up for the season, Irish coach Jay Louderback said.
“We have 12 on the team and for us to get all 12 a lot of matches we’ve got to split up,” Louderback said. “We got to play a lot of matches and also played a lot of teams we don’t usually play. It was a little different than in the past because we’ve never had 12 on the team, but it was good to play so much.”
The Wolverine Invitational pitted the Irish against opponents from Purdue, Tulane, Arizona State, Michigan and DePaul from Friday through Sunday.
Notre Dame won 13 of 15 matches on Friday to begin the event at Michigan. No. 35 senior Britney Sanders, No. 87 sophomore Quinn Gleason, No. 117 senior Jennifer Kellner and freshmen Monica Robinson and Mary Closs earned victories at No. 1 through No. 5 singles against Purdue. Senior Julie Sabacinski also won at No. 8 singles against the Boilermakers. Notre Dame and Purdue split the doubles matches on Saturday, with each team taking two victories.
The Irish nearly achieved a sweep and beat Tulane at No. 2 through No. 7 singles on Friday before winning all four matches the doubles competition against the Green Wave on Saturday.
The invitational allowed the Irish to play teams they typically wouldn’t have the opportunity to play, which teaches players how to adjust to opponents’ different playing styles, Louderback said.
“It’s nicer to get to play some players you’ve never seen or played,” Louderback said. “You may be forced to play a little differently because you’re figuring out how to play them while the match is going on. Tulane, I don’t think we’ve played them for 15 years.”
The wins kept coming against Arizona State on Saturday, as Notre Dame added seven more singles wins to its weekend total. The matches against the Sun Devils provided the Irish with a scouting report for a rare matchup between the two teams early in the spring.
“We haven’t played Arizona State in a long time but we’ll play them in the second match in the spring,” Louderback said. “It was good to get a lookout and see how they play.”
On Sunday, the Irish took three of four doubles matches from Michigan. Sanders and Gleason paired to knock off the Wolverine’s duo of junior Emma Bektas and senior Brooke Bolender, the third-ranked pairing nationally. Notre Dame wrapped up the weekend with five singles victories against DePaul .
“I felt like we played really well,” Louderback said. “[Sunday], especially, doubles played really well. They took three of four from Michigan, who we lost to last year. Sanders and Gleason earned a win over a team ranked third in the country, and their win over Purdue was against a ranked team as well, so overall we had a great weekend.”
At the Ball State Invitational, junior Molly O’Koniewski played her way into the top singles flight and won her first-round match. Irish junior Katherine White made her way into the B-bracket and won matches in the first three rounds. O’Koniewski and White also played their way into the doubles Flight A and earned a first-round win. Irish sophomores Darby Mountford and Alaina Roberts did the same in Flight B before winning their first two rounds.
These first tournaments will serve as the launching pad for the rest of Notre Dame’s fall preparation, Louderback said.
“The entire fall all of our tournaments are basically getting ready for our spring,” Louderback said. “The first is always a good time to be able to get a lot of matches in.”
Notre Dame travels to Pacific Palisades, Calif., for its next competition at the ITA All-American Qualifier beginning on Oct. 1.
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