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ND Women’s Tennis: Home defeat helps Irish regain focus

John Helms | Thursday, February 4, 2010

Coming into last weekend’s ITA Kickoff, Irish coach Jay Louderback said Irish would get their first glimpse of where they really stood among the nation’s best teams. After Notre Dame fell to No. 17 North Carolina Sunday, it found it still had some work to do to live up to its top-10 national ranking.

For the Irish, it was their first real test of the year. The team came into the match ranked No. 6 in the nation and undefeated. A week before the girls had easily defeated Iowa and Wisconsin, and a day before the defeat girls had handled Big East rival No. 46 DePaul. But North Carolina brought a new set of challenges.

“[The Tar Heels] were very intense, we gave them credit, and they came here with confidence,” sophomore Shannon Mathews said. “They came out and were ready to play.”

North Carolina won four of six singles points and earned the doubles point by taking two and three doubles. The two bright spots for Notre Dame were players Kristi Frilling and Kali Krisik, winning both at their singles positions and as a doubles pairing. Frilling is currently ranked 30th in the nation.

The rest of the girls are using this match as motivation and an opportunity to reach their full potential for the rest of the year.

“There is a lot of room for improvement, but we still know what we need to work on in practice,” Mathews said. “We want to peak for NCAAs.”

The match against North Carolina was as motivating as it was hard fought. But instead of dwelling on the loss, the team is trying to grow from it. The girls know they have to focus in on a couple of specific things to improve.

“As a whole, we’ll be working on doubles,” Mathews said. “Each person has individual things they’re going to focus on.”

In the end, the girls may be thanking the Tar Heels for giving them a wake-up call for the rest of the season.

“I definitely think that if we get a chance to play them later in the season we could get a different result,” Mathews said.

In the meantime, Notre Dame will focus its attention on the matches this weekend as the team travels to Kansas with a new focus and intensity.