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ND Women’s Tennis

Young team deals with injuries, tough schedule

| Friday, May 15, 2015

Notre Dame ‘s season ended with a 4-2 loss to TCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but on the way toward earning its 20th consecutive tournament berth, the team overachieved in a number of ways.

Notre Dame sophomore Monica Robinson winds up for a hit during a match against Stanford on Feb. 6 at Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish fell to the Cardinal, 6-1.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Notre Dame sophomore Monica Robinson winds up for a hit during a match against Stanford on Feb. 6 at Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish fell to the Cardinal, 6-1.

The Irish (14-10, 8-6 ACC) kicked off their spring season in early January without injured top recruit Brooke Broda, who had won three National Open singles titles before coming to Notre Dame.

Head coach Jay Louderback said the resilience his team showed throughout the year after Broda’s season-ending injury was crucial.

“I felt like everyone stepped up,” he said. “We thought Brooke was going to be in the lineup, but she ended up missing the year with an injury. So everyone had to step up and play to a higher level than we thought, and they did a good job.”

It wasn’t just the injury to an expected starter that forced the Irish to play differently this season, Louderback said. They also had to overcome a number of personnel changes from a season ago.

“We lost three of our top four doubles from last year and only had one new player come in,” Louderback said. “We had so many tight matches, so many 5-2 and 4-3 matches, more by far than any in this team’s history. And especially our doubles had to step up. We hardly lost the doubles point all year, and that turned out to be huge for us.”

As the season continued, Notre Dame faced some of the top teams in the country and played them to close matches almost every time. On the year, the Irish had seven matches end with a 4-3 score.

Louderback highlighted one such match that specifically stood out to him.

“The match with Virginia Tech [on April 5] ended up being a huge match for us,” he said. “We were on the road, and it came down to [junior] Quinn [Gleason] at No. 1 singles, where she was down to two match points. She came back and won to give us a 4-3 win. Without that win, we would’ve been on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Our kids hung in there and gave a huge win when we needed it.”

After the victory at Virginia Tech, the Irish found themselves victors of four in a row and six of their previous seven. Unfortunately, they then suffered a four-game skid with losses to then-No. 17 Miami, No. 21 Clemson and No. 23 Duke, as well as a second round ACC tournament loss to Florida State.

The Irish did, however, earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, traveling to College Station, Texas, for the matchup against TCU, which they dropped.

Notre Dame’s top doubles team of Gleason and sophomore Monica Robinson earned a spot in the NCAA women’s doubles championship in Waco, Texas, which takes place May 20-25. The 26th ranked duo played to a 14-5 record this spring and a 22-7 overall record going back to the fall.

“They simply had a great season,” Louderback said. “Last year Monica was in and out of our doubles lineup, and she had to work on a few things in order to get better, and she did that. As a sophomore and junior, they played great together against some great competition. Without the way they played together this year, we simply would not have won as many of the doubles points. They were huge for us.”

Louderback said he is already looking forward to next season, especially with more experienced players and five-star recruit Rachel Chong coming in from Danville, California.

“We didn’t have any seniors in our top six [this year],” Louderback said. “We’ve got a great freshman coming in this year, and we’re hoping Brooke will be healthy. We’ve got so much experience. All our returners got some great experience, [sophomore] Jane Fennelly especially …

“With all the returners and new players coming in, we think we could be a really special team next year.”

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