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ND Women’s Tennis: Squad looking to keep winning streak intact

Joe Meixell | Friday, April 4, 2008

No. 20 Notre Dame (14-7) looks to extend its season-high seven-game win streak this weekend, traveling to No. 46 Iowa today and then returning home to face Syracuse on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes (11-4) started the season by winning eight in a row but have struggled of late. Historically, Iowa has not fared well against Notre Dame, winning just once in 15 matches all-time.

Iowa’s doubles lineup will pose a legitimate threat to Notre Dame’s eight-match streak of doubles point wins. Freshman Alexis Dorr and senior Jacqueline Lee lead the Hawkeyes’ doubles attack. Both are 10-5 in singles play, and the two have played together as Iowa’s No. 1 doubles pair in every match this year, going 10-5.

Senior Milica Veselinovic, who leads the team with a 14-1 singles record on the dual season, teams with junior Merel Beelen for doubles. The duo has gone 7-4 playing in the No. 2 slot.

Junior Kayla Berry and freshman Lyn Poggonsee-Wei round out the lineup. The pair boasts an 8-3 record giving them the best winning percentage of the Iowa’s main doubles teams.

Serve is set for 4 p.m. CT at Hawkeye Recreation and Athletic Complex. After the match at Iowa, the Irish return home to face the Syracuse Orange who are in rebuilding mode.

The Orange (9-11) are coached by former professional tennis player and ESPN analyst Luke Jensen. Jensen is in just his second year as head coach, and many of his players are learning on the job with five freshmen getting significant playing time.

The youth movement is lead by Christine Tan. The freshman has played No. 1 singles in all of Syracuse’s matches this year earning the same 9-11 record as her team.

After losing their previous seven matches, the Orange have found some momentum by winning three in a row over Villanova, Colgate, and St. John’s.

Syracuse has played well against its foes from the Big East, going 6-4 in conference play this year. Notre Dame will face just its third conference opponent of the dual season and enters the match with a 2-0 record against the Big East.

Syracuse will travel to South Bend for the first time in history. Notre Dame has won the previous four meetings, all at other venues. The match has been moved back to 1 p.m. ET to make it the back half of a Sunday morning double-header with the Notre Dame men’s tennis match against William & Mary.

With the level of competition and amount of matches rising, the depth of Notre Dame will continue to be tested. Notre Dame Head Coach Jay Louderback recognizes the need for depth and how important it has been this season.

“Being really deep is something that’s been a factor the whole year for us. We are able to compete all the way down the lineup,” Louderback said.

With Kristen Rafael day-to-day due to a sprained ankle, the lineup switches have showcased the depth Louderback has at his disposal.

“Katie [Potts] played great yesterday, and Kali [Krisik] is playing well down there at five and six. It takes the pressure off the top, and actually they even play with more pressure at the bottom, because they feel like everyone above them is going to win,” Louderback said.

The desire for team success pushes individual accomplishments to the back burner. Louderback says his players do not focus on personal rankings but rather on the team.

“The only time we look at [rankings] is the end of the year because they use it to put kids into the individual tournaments,” Louderback said. “Otherwise, we really don’t look at it much at all.”

The focus instead is on getting reps outdoors in preparation for the final week of matches and postseason play.

“Our biggest thing now is just getting outdoors because the Big East and NCAA tournaments are both outdoors. So any chance we get to practice and play matches outside is big for us,” Louderback said.

Louderback anticipates both matches this weekend being outdoors as the team starts to wrap up the regular season, make final preparations, and look forward to a deep postseason run.