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ND Women’s Tennis

ND travels to Illinois Blast

| Thursday, November 5, 2015

Notre Dame nears the end of its fall slate this weekend as a portion of the squad heads southwest to Champaign, Illinois, for the Illinois Blast.

The Irish will be one of four teams participating in the tournament this year. In addition to Notre Dame and the host Fighting Illini, Purdue and Missouri will join what amounts to a preseason dual tournament. Dual season begins in January, whereas the fall is usually reserved for bracket-style action, but this weekend’s format will give the Irish the opportunity to create a more team-driven atmosphere, according to junior Mary Closs.

“The tournament is mock dual format which will be really fun,” Closs said. “We will play singles and doubles in a lineup format. This means we get to play alongside each other at the same time, which we haven’t experienced yet this fall. It’ll give us a chance to pump each other up while playing and feed off the energy of our teammates.”

Junior Mary Closs returns a forehand to her Stanford opponent during a match at Eck Tennis Pavilion on Feb. 6. Closs and her doubles partner Jane Fennelly finished last season with a 13-5 record together and will look to build on that this year. Both Closs and Fennelly will be part of the team that travels to Champaign this weekend for the Illinois Blast.Michael Yu | The Observer

Junior Mary Closs returns a forehand to her Stanford opponent during a match at Eck Tennis Pavilion on Feb. 6. Closs and her doubles partner Jane Fennelly finished last season with a 13-5 record together. Both Closs and Fennelly will be part of the team that travels to Champaign, Illinois, this weekend for the Illinois Blast.

Senior Quinn Gleason said having teammates playing around them will help motivate the Irish, especially with the energy of some of the younger players making the trip, including freshman Rachel Chong and sophomores Brooke Broda and Allison Miller.

“As a senior I’m looking for the underclassmen to bring a lot of energy to the court,” Gleason said. “A huge part of tennis is mental, so it’s important to show your opponents and teammates how badly you want it and how hard you’re willing to fight.”

Gleason played at the top of the singles lineup in dual matches last season, compiling a record of 11-11, while going 6-7 in ACC dual matches. She will be back at top of the lineup this weekend, and she said she’s excited to get back into dual action.

“This weekend will be a great test against three competitive teams,” Gleason said. “I know I will have three tough singles matches and three tough doubles matches ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to competing next to my teammates.”

Gleason has been among the top seeds at multiple tournaments this fall, most recently as the top-seed at the ITA Midwest championships, where she was upset in the round of 16.

“My fall season wasn’t ideal, but I’ve definitely learned a lot about my game and I’m excited to see how I can use what I learned in the coming spring season,” Gleason said.

Gleason said she prefers to play with a chip on her shoulder, so being the one with the target on her at different points this fall gave her an opportunity to learn.

“It’s an honor being seeded at fall tournaments,” Gleason said. “I’ve been working towards that since my freshman year. That being said, I prefer to be the dark horse or underdog. This fall has been really helpful in gaining experience with being a seed at national tournaments.”

Senior Julie Vrabel, junior Jane Fennelly, Gleason, Closs, Broda, Miller and Chong are slated to be the seven making the trip across the state line this weekend. Chong, the squad’s lone freshman, has impressed her older teammates, both Gleason and Closs said.

“She has been playing great and has really proven herself at the first two fall tournaments,” Gleason said. “I’m confident she will be a great contribution to the lineup this spring season.”

“[Chong] has been awesome so far,” Closs said. “She’s transitioned very well from juniors to college. We are excited to have her competing for us in the spring. She brings a lot of energy and intensity to the courts. She’s a great player and overall a great teammate.”

Notre Dame was also supposed to host the Bedford Cup at Eck Tennis Pavilion this weekend, but the event was cancelled.

The Irish will begin play at the Illinois Blast on Friday, and action will wrap up Sunday.

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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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