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ND Women’s Tennis: High-flying team hosts tough Purdue squad

Alex Barker | Wednesday, February 18, 2009

With two victories over top-five teams in the Indoor National Championships, the No. 14 Irish are riding a heap of momentum as they head into today’s matchup with a feisty Purdue squad at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

In last weekend’s tournament, Notre Dame pulled two upsets over No. 5 Stanford and No. 4 Baylor before falling in the semifinals to No. 1 Northwestern.

“I believe we can compete with any team in the country,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “We have plenty of tough matches over the next few weeks and winning some close ones against top-five teams has really helped our confidence.”

The early success, however, isn’t all fun and games. The Irish still cannot afford to let their guard down against weaker opponents.

“Doing well last weekend puts a bigger target on your back,” Louderback said. “So we have to be ready for every team we play.”

The Irish are 6-1 this season, with each match having come against ranked opponents. The Boilermakers are just 3-3 this season, but Louderback isn’t allowing his team to take them lightly.

“[Purdue] isn’t ranked, but they beat a very good Wichita State team last week,” he said. “They have played much better as the season has progressed.”

Freshman Shannon Mathews has been one of the pleasant surprises this season for the Irish. She has yet to lose a singles match thus far boasting a 6-0 record in the No. 6 singles spot.

“Shannon has really come through for us this season, especially with her big win against Arkansas after being down to match point,” Louderback said. “She has managed to build on that as the season has progressed.” 

Mathews has also been a force at the No. 3 doubles spot notching a 5-2 record alongside partner junior Colleen Rielley.

Overall, Louderback is impressed by his team’s performance so far.

“I feel really good about where we are at this time,” he said. “We still have some things that we have to improve on to do well at the end of the year.”

Louderback is still looking for plenty of improvement from his team over the next few weeks.

“We played very well at the National Indoor Championships last weekend, especially in singles,” he said. “But our doubles play needs to get better, particularly at the end of sets.”

Today’s match starts at 4 p.m. with the doubles competition.