ND Women’s Tennis
Irish host Virginia Tech for senior day
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, April 11, 2014
Looking to continue their recent surge, Notre Dame welcomes foe Virginia Tech on Friday afternoon in the final home match of their inaugural year in the ACC before traveling to North Carolina State on Sunday.
The Irish (12-8, 4-6 ACC) are on a roll as of late, winning their last four matches by a combined score of 28-0, including last weekend’s sweeps of Maryland and Pittsburgh. The Irish have won seven of their last nine matches, with the only two losses coming on the road at the hands of now No. 4 Virginia and No. 3 North Carolina. Despite their recent hot streak, the Irish dropped from No. 20 last week to No. 26 in the polls this week.
With the weather forecast for Friday looking pleasant, it is possible the Irish and the No. 64 Hokies (11-9, 3-7 ACC) could meet outside Friday afternoon. It would only be Notre Dame’s second home match played outdoors due to the late spring, after the victory over Pittsburgh last Sunday. Ideally, the majority of spring matches would be played outdoors, said Irish coach Jay Louderback.
“We don’t get a whole lot of home matches outdoors, so when we get the opportunity to get outside at home it’s very nice,” Louderback said. “If we end up hosting at the NCAAs, we play out[side], so it’s good to get some matches outdoors at home.”
While Notre Dame has played outside on road trips this season prior to last weekend, many schools in the ACC have been able to play in the sun for a couple months now. Since the Irish have flip-flopped between the faster inside game and the slower outdoor game a number of times now, Louderback sees his team being able to transition and play either game fairly well now.
“We’ll be out[side] one day and then indoors two … I think we’ve had to do that so often that adjusting for us is getting easier,” said Louderback. “Outside you have to be a lot more patient with the ball, points last longer.”
In addition to battling the elements, another part of the game the Irish have been battling all season has been the play of their doubles teams. There have been eight different pairs who have seen ACC playing time for the Irish, with the only mainstay being the pair of senior Brittany Sanders and sophomore Quinn Gleason. However, Louderback’s tinkering with the teams may have unlocked something for the Irish, having won the doubles point in all four matches of their current win streak.
One such key has been the emergence of the doubles duo of junior Molly O’Koniewski and freshman Mary Closs. The pair played together for the first time last weekend, winning their two matches by a combined score of 16-3.
“Molly’s really solid off the ground, doesn’t miss returns, lobs well,” Louderback said. “Mary has a great serve and cuts balls off really well, so they complement each other really well.”
Another key for the Irish of late has been their depth in the singles lineup. At the four, five and six positions, the Irish have fared pretty well all season, with Closs, classmate Monica Robinson and sophomore Julie Vrabel seeing the most playing time.
“We won a lot early, too, but now I feel like we’re playing even better at four, five, six,” Louderback said. “Julie Vrabel had a lot of three-setters earlier. She won a lot of them, but now she’s starting quicker. You start getting match tough from playing a lot, and I think all three of those guys have done a great job as the season’s gone on.”
The Irish will continue to draw on this depth and doubles improvement Friday at 3:30 p.m. as they look to win their final regular season home match against the Hokies at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.