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ND Women’s Tennis

Irish prepare to take on No. 15 Duke as the teams compete for ACC seeding

| Friday, April 7, 2017

The Irish will play host to No. 15 Duke on Friday.

As of late, the Irish (16-3, 7-2 ACC) have returned to their winning ways, improving to 7-2 in ACC play after defeating Virginia Tech on March 31. The Blue Devils (13-3, 7-0) have been a powerful team all season and are currently undefeated in ACC play. The opportunity to go against a ranked team with momentum is a critical one for the Irish, Irish head coach Jay Louderback said.

Irish freshman Zoe Spence returns the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Purdue on Feb. 22 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish freshman Zoe Spence returns the ball during Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over Purdue on Feb. 22 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

“For us to go in [to Virginia Tech] and play as well as we did on their fast courts was very good for our confidence,” Louderback said. “Confidence-wise for the Duke matchup, that really helped. It looks like we’re going to be playing Duke indoors as well, so that win should be something that will really help us against Duke.”

The Irish are not lacking in confidence despite the fact that Duke is one of the strongest teams in the ACC. Its only three losses on the season have come against SEC opponents, all of whom are now ranked. The Blue Devils have have been cutting their way through ACC competition, winning a large portion of their matches with lopsided scores. Louderback said the Blue Devils pose a number of challenges for the Irish.

“They’re solid in their entire lineup one through six, and have three really solid doubles teams,” Louderback said. “They’re just tough; they have a good variety of older leaders and younger players. They’re a good team; we’re looking forward to it because we think it’s going to be a close one. It’s a higher-ranked team we’re getting a shot at Friday, which we’re really looking forward to.”

Seniors Jane Fennelly, Monica Robinson and Mary Closs each only have five regular season matches left in their college careers. Closs and Robinson make up the Irish’s number one doubles pairing, and Jane Fennelly’s contribution to the third pairing has been an undeniable presence all year. Louderback had nothing but praise for his seniors.

“Our seniors have been really good all year, and I feel like they’ll finish out the rest of this season the way they have all year,” Louderback said. “All three of them play very well in matches but also work extremely hard in practice. That really helps our younger players see how hard they work when they’re out there. All three are competing the best they have in their four years.”

Louderback said this match will have major implications for the ACC standings. A few wins down this last stretch of the season will put them in strong position for a high seed in the upcoming ACC tournament. These wins could also raise the Irish’s national standing, but Louderback insisted the team is focused purely on the ACC.

“We’re not worried a whole lot about anything but ACC,” Louderback said. “Right now all the teams are playing to see where we’re going to be seeded at the ACC tournament. Everyone from one to eight or nine is close right now. Every match we have coming up will help determine where we are in the tournament. Duke was picked to be one of the top two teams coming into this year. This would be a big win for us.”

The Irish will battle the Blue Devils at 4 p.m. Friday at Courtney Tennis Center.

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