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ND Women’s Tennis: Ciobanu poised with racket

Lorenzo Reyes | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last March, then-No. 2 Notre Dame was on the verge of being upset by No. 23 Duke – until Cosmina Ciobanu upended Blue Devil senior Tory Zawacki.

“That’s when I knew we had a special player in Cosmina,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said.

The Irish were winning 3-1 early in the match, but struggled and lost the next two to the Blue Devils. After her match was tied 5-5 in the final set, Ciobanu, now a sophomore, stepped up and won her match – and captured the victory for Notre Dame.

“Duke was a top team, and she played against a very experienced and talented senior,” Louderback said. “On top of that, she had the pressure of the whole match riding on her, and was able to pull out a win.”

Ciobanu had shown promise as early as October of her freshman year when she made it to the finals in the ITA Midwest Regionals.

“She beat a series of very good players to get to the finals as a freshman,” Louderback said.

Along with those two eye-opening performances, Ciobanu led Notre Dame with 36 singles victories last year, which marked a tie for fourth-most in school history. Her dual-match winning percentage of .963 set one of several new Irish records.

At one point, Ciobanu suffered through three straight losses, but then turned her play around to notch 24 straight wins. Coupled with her intense work ethic, it is no surprise that the sophomore now plays from the No. 1 singles spot for Notre Dame.

“Cosmina works really hard,” Louderback said. “With tennis and school both. She’s a pre-med and anthropology major and just works hard at everything. She always seems to get in early to get in extra hits. One thing she can really do is manage her time between academics and athletics.”

This year, Ciobanu is 12-5 overall and 1-1 in dual match play and continues to exhibit consistently solid technique in both her singles and doubles matches.

Not only is Ciobanu a budding talent, but a great teammate also.

“Our three sophomore girls are really close,” Louderback said. “Cosmina, Colleen [Rielley] and Kali [Krisik] all help each other with their game. We have good depth, and they just all feed off each other in practices and games.”

However, Ciobanu and her teammates didn’t arrive where they are on their own. Junior Kelcy Tefft has been one of the upperclassmen who aided the rising talents transition into both university life and tennis.

“Kelcy gets along with all of them real well,” Louderback said. “She’s been able to help them with anything they need, be it in tennis or in life.”

One aspect that separates excellent players and leaders from the pack is the ability to make one’s teammates better and assist in their improvement. With Ciobanu, Louderback said there is no exception to the rule.

“She just works so hard in practice that it kind of rubs off on her teammates,” Louderback said. “She’s an excellent role model as an athlete and a person.”