ND Women’s Tennis
Irish enter new season with new leadership
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Notre Dame enters the 2014 fall season having lost three of its top players to graduation in Britney Sanders, Jennifer Kellner and Julie Sabacinski. However, Irish coach Jay Louderback said he feels good about where his team left off and where they are going.
“I felt really good about the end of last year,” Louderback said. “We had a great NCAA tournament. Our seniors played really well at the end of the year and did an outstanding job.”
The Irish reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, upsetting regional host Northwestern before falling in a tight match to Alabama in Athens, Ga. Looking to build off of the strong finish to last year, the Irish have a little momentum heading into this season.“Replacing [last year’s seniors] isn’t going to be easy, but we have a lot back,” Louderback said. “We have five of our top seven girls returning and then added two very good freshmen.”
Those freshmen, Brooke Broda and Allison Miller, are both top-20 recruits and will help fill the void left by the three seniors, as will sophomores Mary Closs and Monica Robinson, who were both regulars for the Irish last year, Louderback said.
“[Broda and Miller] are both left-handed players, who are always hard to play in doubles, so we’ll have three on the team which is good,” Louderback said. “They are a lot like how [Robinson and Closs] came in last year as freshmen and I think these two will rival those two and compete for playing time.”
Junior Julie Vrabel was a mainstay for the Irish singles lineup and fellow junior Quinn Gleason, last year’s Midwest Player to Watch, is set to anchor the first position in singles play as well as provide experience for the Irish doubles squad.
“[Gleason] had a really good year last year,” Louderback said. “She made the NCAA [individual tournament]. She’s matured a lot more and talent-wise, she is very talented … She showed last year that, basically, she can play [first singles position] for us this year. I think she can make another jump.”
Although the bulk of last year’s matches were played by the underclassmen and graduated seniors, the Irish do have two experienced seniors this year who will play a key role this year. Molly O’Koniewski saw time on the doubles court last year, where she found success with Closs later in the season. Katherine White also played several doubles and single matches for the Irish last year as well. Louderback said that both seniors will compete for chances to play but that their contribution to the team will extend beyond the court.
“They have both been in and out of the doubles lineup,” Louderback said. “But I just think that the biggest thing with them is that their leadership is something we really need because we lost three seniors, and we lost some very good leadership out of them.”
The Irish have three tournaments scheduled this fall, the first of which they will host on the final weekend of September. Louderback said these early-season clashes are extremely important in helping determining the lineup for the spring, when team matches and ACC play begins.
“The fall is mainly for our kids to get matches in,” Louderback said. “We see who’s worked hard over the summer and who’s made jumps, and it really helps us come spring.”
Fall is also a key time for the Irish to try and piece together doubles pairings, something that was a thorn in their side all of last season, Louderback said.
Louderback also said that he expects Notre Dame’s path through the ACC to be even tougher this season.
“Everyone just seems to have reloaded,” Louderback said. “There were a couple programs that are usually very strong that had down years, but who have reloaded and are going to be tough this year.”
With that in mind, the Irish will begin their 2014-2015 season when they host their first tournament of the year Sept. 26-28 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.