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ND Women’s Tennis

Irish blank Cowgirls after falling to Ariz. State

| Sunday, January 26, 2014

After a 4-0 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, the No. 21 Irish bounced back with a 4-0 victory over Oklahoma State on Sunday at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Evanston, Ill.

Irish senior Jennifer Kellner prepares for a shot during Notre Dame's 5-2 home win over DePaul last season. Kellner paired with freshman Jane Fennelly to earn a doubles win against Oklahoma State on Sunday. Wei Lin | The Observer

Irish senior Jennifer Kellner prepares for a shot during Notre Dame’s 5-2 home win over DePaul last season. Kellner paired with freshman Jane Fennelly to earn a doubles win against Oklahoma State on Sunday.

Entering the weekend’s matches, both Arizona State (3-0) and Oklahoma State (0-2) were on the cusp of top-25 rankings, at No. 26 and No. 29 respectively. The Irish (3-1) played the Sun Devils in a late match Saturday and recovered from the loss to beat the Cowgirls at 10 a.m. the next morning. Irish coach Jay Louderback said his team displayed resilience and mental toughness during the challenging contests.

“We had a late match, and that’s a little bit tougher,” Louderback said. “We finished at about 7:30 last night and then turned around and played at 10 this morning, and our team handled it really well.”

Notre Dame started its matches Saturday against Arizona State an hour behind schedule. Weather delayed Oklahoma State’s arrival until Saturday, so all of the day’s matches were pushed back.

Although the Sun Devils shut out the Irish in terms of points, Notre Dame played well and kept matches close, which made the matches harder to lose, Louderback said.

“I think more mentally than physically, coming back that quickly can be tough after we lost to Arizona State 4-0, but it was a tight match,” Louderback said. “Bouncing back from that that quickly, I thought we handled it really well.”

At No. 1 doubles, sophomore Quinn Gleason and senior Britney Sanders secured Notre Dame’s only victory against Arizona State.

Gleason and Sanders narrowly won again Sunday, 7-6 (3) against Oklahoma State’s duo of senior Kanyapat Narattana and freshman Carla Tur Mari. The Irish also won at third doubles as well as at No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 singles.

Louderback praised sophomore Julie Vrabel and senior Julie Sabacinski, who played at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, respectively.

“Overall, everybody played well,” Louderback said. “Two of the places where we struggled last year were No. 5 and 6 singles, and I thought our five and six did really well this week, and neither one lost a match.”

Through the ITA Kickoff Weekend, teams can qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships held in Charlottesville, Va., from Feb. 7-10.

Louderback said the Irish seemed to calm down against Oklahoma State.

“I think our biggest thing is to get into some tight matches,” Louderback said. “We were better in the tight matches today [Sunday]. Yesterday [Saturday], we had close matches with Arizona State, and I feel like we just played a little too nervous, a little too tentative in those matches, in those close ones.”

Notre Dame’s biggest takeaway from the weekend should be the ability to play against some of the top teams in the country.

“Oklahoma State is about as good as Arizona State,” Louderback said. “They’re very good. They’re a top-30 team. Today [Sunday] in those tight matches, we played them. We played more relaxed because I think that’s just a matter of playing some good teams the first matches. We’ll play better the more of those we play.”

The Irish return home this weekend for a match against Illinois on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and against Indiana on Sunday at 10 a.m., both at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu

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