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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish welcome South Florida

Chris Allen | Friday, April 9, 2010

Fresh off a grueling trip to Texas during which Notre Dame went 1-1 in two matches, the No. 6 Irish return to the familiar home courts of the Eck Tennis Pavilion as they take on No. 19 South Florida Friday. The Bulls will test the team in its return to the home court.

“They’re one of the top teams in the Big East,” freshman Chrissie McGaffigan said. “They’re a group of really talented players.”

The Irish (16-3) will be playing their first match at home in over a month, where they last defeated Indiana on March 5. Though they went 5-2 over the span, the month on the road definitely took a toll on the team.

“We’re done traveling for the season, which is actually kind of sad because it means everything is close to being over,” McGaffigan said. “But it’s nice knowing that we’ll be home and we’ll have our friends and our fans out cheering for us.”

The Bulls (10-5), who lost to the Irish in the 2008 Big East Championships, are a familiar foe, and the Irish will look to build on its 4-1 record against South Florida historically. No. 41 Irene Rehberger leads the Bulls this year and will match up against Notre Dame’s top singles player No. 18 sophomore Kristy Frilling. The Irish are focused on doubles play, where they will face the No. 16 team of Rehberger and Melissa Koning. The Irish have been preparing for the Bulls’ strong doubles play in practice.

“We’ve worked a lot in doubles throughout the season, but recently we’ve been practicing our singles heavily too,” McGaffigan said. “The coaches have been putting us through a ton of drills as we try to improve our singles play.”

In addition to Frilling, who has been nearly flawless at the top singles position, the Irish have been getting equally strong play from the likes of No. 113 McGaffigan, who carries a 12-7 record at the third singles spot, and senior Cosmina Ciobanu, who leads the Irish with 16 wins on the season. McGaffigan believes her play is important to back up Frilling’s dominance.

“Basically, being a real close-knit team has helped us out,” McGaffigan said. “We all know that we are behind each other. We are always cheering for each other, and you can always hear us on the court. We know that every single spot is just as important as the next, so our play is really important to the team.”

The Irish look to start the three-match home stand on the right foot as they square off with the Bulls at Eck Tennis Pavilion at 3 p.m. Friday.