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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish face three top-20 teams on Tobacco Road

Dan Masterton | Thursday, February 21, 2008

The No. 15 Irish (6-4) head to North Carolina to see if Tobacco Road can play more than just basketball.

The stretch of three straight top-20 opponents starts today at 5 p.m. when Notre Dame takes on No. 8 Duke (3-0) at the Sheffield Tennis Center in Durham, N.C. The Irish play No. 19 Wake Forest (2-1) Saturday and No. 5 North Carolina (6-3) Sunday.

The Irish have never beaten the Blue Devils at the Sheffield Tennis Center in four tries.

“We know we’re going to have a tough match. They’re real good, and I feel like they’re a top-5 team,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said.

Though the Irish have won the last two matches, both on neutral courts, Duke leads the all-time series 12-2. The Blue Devils are hot right now, coming off a 4-3 upset victory over No. 6 Florida.

Reigning ACC Player of the Week and No. 38 singles player in the country, sophomore Elizabeth Potkin, won the decisive three-set match to complete the upset for Duke. The Blue Devils’ singles attack is deep, also featuring No. 16 Ellah Nze, who is 3-0 in singles play for the dual season and No. 13 Reka Zslinszka.

Duke also boasts a top-10 doubles pair in No. 6 Amanda Granson and Melissa Zang. They will square off with Notre Dame’s top pair of Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft, No. 3 in the nation.

Buck had a minor ankle sprain last week and sat out the 7-0 win over Wisconsin on Feb. 15, but she is healthy again, Louderback said.

“We didn’t need to play her [against Wisconsin]. She’s come back strong, and I’d say today she’s back to 100 percent,” Louderback said.

In singles, Tefft played from the No. 1 slot twice this past weekend and won both matches. Her 9-1 singles record is tied for best on the team, and the move up appears to be permanent.

“She’s earned the spot, and we’re planning on playing her at No. 1,” Louderback said.

Another bright spot over the weekend was freshman Kristin Rafael, who won her season debut in singles play.

“Kristin’s playing better and better. She looked really good in practice today,” Louderback said. “She’s been playing great doubles, and we’re looking to her into some singles.”

Although the Irish did not take their last three opponents lightly, Louderback said the last weekend had a different level of competition.

“After playing three last week where we were favorites, we’re happy to be underdogs again,” Louderback said.

All three of Duke’s wins in the dual season were over ranked opponents.