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ND Women’s Tennis

Irish notch pair of sweeps in ACC play

| Sunday, April 6, 2014

The No. 20 Irish put up a pair of sweeps this weekend, inside and outside of the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The pair of shutouts marked four in a row for Notre Dame after the Irish blanked Marquette and Wake Forest last week.

The Irish (12-8, 5-6 ACC) started the weekend off strong with a Friday sweep of the Terrapins (5-10, 1-8) indoors. Building off of recent success, Notre Dame took the doubles point to start the match, with freshman Mary Closs and her junior partner Molly O’Koniewski winning their first match as a pair, 8-1. Notre Dame’s top pair of senior Brittany Sanders and sophomore Quinn Gleason clinched the doubles point with their 8-4 victory.

“[Maryland’s] a good solid team,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “I felt like we started off really strong with the doubles … we’ve played better and better as the semester’s gone on.”

The Irish kept the pressure on the Terrapins as Closs, freshman Monica Robinson, sophomore Julie Vrabel and senior Jennifer Kellner all won quick first sets to start the singles part of the match. All four would go on to win their matches in straight sets, with Closs’s 6-2, 6-2 win at fifth singles clinching the match for the Irish.

Irish freshman Mary Closs returns a volley Feb. 21 against Georgia Tech. Closs teamed with junior Molly O’Koniewski on Friday to win their first match as a pair, 8-1.Emmet Farnan

Irish freshman Mary Closs returns a volley Feb. 21 against Georgia Tech. Closs teamed with junior Molly O’Koniewski on Friday to win their first match as a pair, 8-1.

Notre Dame’s top two singles players, Sanders and Gleason, both lost their opening sets, but they would both fight back to win their second ones, forcing 10-point tie breakers. Both matches ended well after the match result was decided, but Louderback said he was proud of the fight his team displayed regardless.

“They don’t want to lose,” Louderback said. “A lot of it is pride, too.”

On Sunday the Irish took on Pittsburgh (4-11, 0-11) in their first outdoor home match of the season. Once again the Irish got off to an early 1-0 lead by taking the doubles point. Closs and O’Koniewski continued their early success together with an 8-2 defeat at third doubles, while Sanders and Gleason finished off the point with an 8-5 victory as the top pair.

Closs and O’Koniewski are only the latest pairing to be sent out on court by Louderback, but the two have shone early.

“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.”

Closs said she agrees with her coach as to the effectiveness of the pairing.

“It was fun playing with Molly,” she said. “We set each other up. Molly sets me up at the net and I get first serves in so that she can attack from there.”

Notre Dame continued the hot play as all six singles players won their first sets, never giving Pittsburgh a chance to come back into the game. Closs was the first off the court with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Panthers junior Amanda Wickman at No. 5 singles, followed by Sanders and her 6-1, 6-1 defeat of freshman Audrey Ann Blakely at the top singles. Robinson would clinch the match for the Irish, putting them up 4-0 with a 6-1, 6-0 win in the four spot. Vrabel, Kellner and Gleason would all finish off their matches in straight sets.

“I thought we all stayed patient and worked the point all weekend,” Closs said. “We did well coming into the net and taking some balls out of there.”

The weekend put the Irish in a position to put together a strong run to end the season and head into the ACC tournament on a high note. They will look to continue their four-match winning streak next weekend with two matches on slate, including their final home match Friday against Virginia Tech.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A senior History major, Zach resides in Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he has covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus.

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