ND Women’s Tennis
Notre Dame sweeps weekend
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, February 4, 2014
No. 23 Notre Dame beat Illinois and Indiana by identical 4-3 scores on Friday and Sunday, respectively, at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
Irish sophomore Quinn Gleason sealed the victory on back-to-back days, winning a tiebreak in the final singles match of each contest.
The Irish (5-1) started Friday’s match against Illinois (4-1) off strong in the doubles portion, earning the first point after Gleason and senior Britney Sanders beat the top Illini team of junior Melissa Kopinski and freshman Alexis Casati, 7-5, while the Irish duo of senior Julie Sabacinski and freshman Mary Closs defeated senior Misia Kedzierski and freshman Louise Kwong by a score of 6-4.The teams traded points in the singles matches, with the Illini drawing the match even at 1-1 when Kedzierski topped Closs 6-4, 6-2. The Irish drew ahead again as sophomore Julie Vrabel defeated Illini freshman Jerricka Boone 6-4, 6-3; but Kwong answered, defeating Sabacinski 6-1, 5-7, (10-8). Sanders put Notre Dame up 3-2 as she topped Kopinski 6-4, 3-6, (10-6); then Casati drew Illinois back in with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Irish senior Jennifer Kellner, leaving Gleason and Illini senior Allison Falkin in a winner-take-all final match.
After splitting the first two sets, Gleason surged ahead in the first-to-10 tiebreaker, opening up 7-0 and 8-1 leads. However, the finish would not come easy, and Gleason, who rolled an ankle earlier in the match, began cramping up and visibly limping. Falkin capitalized on the opportunity, drawing within 8-4, but the lead was too much and Gleason hung on 10-5, securing both personal and team wins.
“Illinois is exactly what we thought they’d be. They’re like that every year,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “They compete really hard, they never give up. For a while it looked like we were in control and then they’re back in it … I think our kids needed to be a little more ready knowing they were going to be like that.”
“I think pulling out these matches in these tight moments, it’s very key, especially for us to build up our confidence.” said Vrabel. “Hopefully that can transfer to other matches in the future.”
The Irish struggled with another scrappy team in the Hoosiers (3-1) on Sunday, dropping the doubles point early. Only two wins were needed for Indiana to earn the point, but Notre Dame also trailed in the third match when it was called.
“Our doubles are usually very good,” said Louderback. “We weren’t even in it. … They got on us and won it fast.”
Trailing 1-0, the Irish rebounded and tore out of the gates to start the singles matches. Closs started the scoring, defeating Hoosiers freshman Paula Gutierrez 6-4, 6-2. Her victory was followed by Vrabel’s 4-6, 6-0, (10-5) win over junior Shannon Murdy and Kellner’s 6-4, 2-6, (10-7) triumph over junior Alecia Kauss, giving the Irish a 3-1 lead. However, freshman Monica Robinson was nipped by Indiana senior Sophie Garre 4-6, 6-3, (10-6) and Sanders fell to junior Katie Klyczek 6-1, 4-6, (10-2.) Sanders fell behind 3-0 in the second set, but refused to go down without a fight, coming back to win the set and at least force the tiebreaker.
“All I could think of was staying in as long as I could and help my teammates,” said Sanders. “I ended up fighting back. … I gave it all my energy in the second set and just ran out of energy in the tiebreaker.”
Sanders’s rally gave the Irish a little momentum as the attention shifted once again to Gleason. Having already played a tiebreaker at the end of the first set, Gleason and Indiana junior Carolyn Chupa headed to the final tiebreaker after Gleason prevailed in the second set 6-3. Chupa stormed out to a 7-1 lead, but Gleason turned the momentum, rallying for eight of the next nine points to take a 9-8 lead and have a match point opportunity. A good Chupa serve forced Gleason into a net shot, but Gleason answered with two straight points to win the match.
“She likes being in that position,” said Louderback. “She enjoys it, she likes it. … She played an unbelievable comeback in the tiebreaker. Just didn’t give up and kept playing and she used the crowd to her advantage. They were fired up and I think that helped her a lot.”