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ND Women’s Tennis: Squad prepares for top-ranked teams

Joe Meixell | Thursday, February 7, 2008

Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback has a routine that he expects his team to follow before tournaments. Usually, he will stress the squad’s mistakes from previous matches and focus on hitting to prepare for the contest.

This time around, however, Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating with his program.

En route to the ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championship in Madison, Wisc., the Irish faced some inclement weather. Unable to continue to Madison, they were forced to stay the night at a motel between South Bend and Madison.

“We’re stuck in the middle of Wisconsin,” Louderback said. “We were lucky to get a room actually. There was a pretty bad traffic accident, and with all the snow, we decided to call it a night, and head over there tomorrow morning.”

Fortunately for the Irish, they aren’t scheduled to play No. 6 Georgia in the first round of the tournament until 4:30 p.m. today at the Nielsen Stadium in Madison.

The team lost to Georgia Tech in the championship game of this tournament last season.

A total of 16 teams await the No. 16 Irish when they make it to Madison, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Northwestern, No. 4 and defending champions Georgia Tech, as well as No. 7 California.

Coach Louderback believes the tournament is an excellent way for his team to gain experience playing some of the best competition in the nation.

“We’re guaranteed at least three matches this weekend,” Louderback said. “And when you play some of the best teams in the nation, you’re going to have some great games and experiences.”

Notre Dame is looking to build upon its momentum after its 4-3 win against Brigham Young earlier this week. Despite two early losses, Louderback feels his team improved, and is feeling confident.

The Irish were able to oust BYU thanks in part to the aggressive doubles play of senior Brook Buck and junior Kelcy Tefft and sophomores Cosmina Ciobanu and Colleen Rielley.

“We’re feeling good,” Louderback said. “We played much better in our doubles sets so we’re feeling good about that. [BYU’s] No. 2 doubles team in the nation hadn’t lost up to that point, and we were able to take them down. It really helped set the tone for the rest of the match. Although we lost a couple of sets that we should have won, we pulled together and won the match.”

However, the Irish must look past their home victory against the Cougars and focus on the top-10 Bulldogs.

Georgia is currently 3-0 in dual match play this season, a great deal of which can be attributed to standout freshman Cameron Ellis, who is riding a 10-game winning streak to an overall record of 19-3.

In terms of doubles play, however, Georgia looks to be a tough opponent. The No. 36 duo of junior Monika Dancevic and senior Kelly Hyndman stand at 10-1 on the season, while No. 30 tandem of sophomores Naoko Ueshima and Yvette Hyndman stand at 9-1 on the year.

Coach Louderback views the first round of the tournament as an excellent opportunity to defeat an evenly matched squad.

“I think they’re a very good team,” he said. “We match up very well with them. We’ve played them before and it was a great match so we’re looking forward to it.”

The winner of the first round will face the victor of the match between No. 75 Wisconsin and No. 4 Georgia Tech.

“It won’t be hard to keep them focused,” Louderback said. “We’re playing the top teams in the nation so they will have their hands full. Also, it’s great preparation for the NCAA finals because we play four matches in five days.”