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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish pick up road wins

Alex Barker | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A week-long road trip to warmer weather proved more than satisfying for the Irish who came away with victories over Duke and South Florida before dropping their final match against Georgia Tech this past week.

“Spring break is always great for us because we get to practice and play outside for the first time all season,” senior captain Kelcy Tefft said. “It’s a difficult adjustment but I think everyone played really well.”

Last Wednesday, No. 4 Notre Dame continued their winning ways, downing conference foe South Florida 5-2 in Tampa, Fla.

The Irish jumped out early clinching the doubles point behind 8-4 victories by the No. 2 ranked doubles team of Tefft and freshman Kristy Frilling and the team of juniors Cosmina Ciobanu and Kali Krisik. The doubles squad of junior Colleen Rielley and freshman Shannon Mathews also won their match to complete the sweep.

Notre Dame did not sit idly on its lead, putting the match out of reach after the third singles match by claiming the decisive fourth point.

Frilling claimed the first victory in singles play with a 6-2, 6-0 result in the No. 2 singles match. Mathews followed with a 6-2, 6-3 win in the No. 5 match before Ciobanu clinched the match for Irish with a dominating 6-0, 6-1 victory in the No. 4 match.

Thursday, the Irish extended their winning streak to eight games with a comeback victory over the No. 3 Blue Devils in Orlando.

“This win proves to us that we have a very strong singles lineup,” Tefft said. “Getting the doubles point is very important, but it also shows us that we can win big matches even if we lose that first point.”

In the doubles competition, Notre Dame dropped its first two matches to fall behind 1-0, failing to clinch the doubles point for the first time since its loss to top-ranked Northwestern back in February.

This time the Irish found a way to bounce back.

In the closest match of the day, Tefft edged her opponent 7-6, 7-6 in the No. 1 singles match to even the score at one.

Tefft’s close win sparked a vigorous Notre Dame comeback that saw the Irish go 5-1 in singles play to take the match convincingly.

Frilling and Ciobanu followed suit with 6-4, 6-2 and 6-1, 7-6 wins, respectively, to put the Irish on the cusp of victory. Mathews and Krisik then put the Blue Devils away with 6-3, 6-3 and 6-3, 6-2 victories, respectively.

Saturday, Notre Dame ran into an opponent who was more than up to their challenge. The Yellow Jackets proved too much, defeating the Irish 4-3 in Atlanta.

Notre Dame got off to a similar start as they had in previous outings claiming the doubles point behind victories from the squads of Tefft/Frilling and Ciobanu/Krisik.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go the Irish’s way in the singles competition.

Tefft and sophomore Kristen Rafael were the first to fall putting Notre Dame behind 2-1. Ciobanu answered with a 6-3, 6-1 victory to tie it up at two.

After Frilling dropped a tough, three-set match to her opponent, Mathews answered with a 6-1, 6-0 victory to pull back to within a tie with only one match remaining.

Krisik dropped the final match of the day in three sets to her opponent, ending Notre Dame’s eight match winning streak.

Disappointed, but not discouraged, Tefft said this loss will help the team in the long-run.

“Three matches in four days is a lot, but it is what we will have to do at NCAAs,” she said. “I think it was good for us to see three tough teams that close together to show us what kind of shape we need to be in for the NCAA tournament. It was a tough loss, but I think we can learn a lot from it.”

The Irish will return home this Friday to face No. 27 Vanderbilt at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.