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ND Women’s Tennis: ND delivers all season, earns conference title

Chris Allen | Thursday, May 13, 2010

Under Irish coach Jay Louderback, the trophy case for the women’s tennis program has become a bit crowded.

The Irish added a new load of hardware in late April, claiming the 2010 Big East title in addition to several individual awards. Louderback earned Big East Coach of the Year honors, sophomore Kristy Frilling was named the Big East Player of the Year and freshman Chrissie McGaffigan garnered Big East Freshman of the Year honors.

The awards came at the tail end of a dominant season for the No. 6 Irish, who carry a 22-3 record heading into the NCAA Championships. After an early loss in the regular spring season to North Carolina, the Irish staked their claim as one of the top teams in the country by defeating then-No. 1 Northwestern 5-2 on Feb. 21.

“We lost two weekends before to North Carolina, which kept us out of the National Indoor Championship,” Louderback said. “Our kids were definitely down. Then Northwestern came in, and we turned around and played very well. We saw that day that we can play with anybody.”

The squad rode the momentum from the Northwestern match, winning 15 of its final 17 matches. A highlight for the team came during Spring Break, as the Irish traveled to Puerto Rico for a couple of matches, finishing 1-1 on the trip.

Riding a four-game win streak into the Big East tournament, the first to be hosted at Notre Dame, the Irish reeled off three dominating victories, including a 4-0 sweep of DePaul in the finals to notch the 10th championship in program history. The Irish did not drop a singles match in the tournament.

“Towards the end of the season, we changed around our lineup a bit,” Louderback said. “Our doubles teams got really comfortable with each other and the chemistry was great. We were so tough to beat because if we win the doubles point, we go into the singles up 1-0, and it’s tough to win four singles matches against our players.”

Pacing the Irish all season at first singles and first doubles was Frilling, posting a 41-5 combined record between the two slots, including a 19-5 record at the challenging No. 1 singles position. Frilling stepped up to replace last year’s Big East Player of the Year, former Irish No. 1 Kelcy Tefft.

“Her move from two to one singles was big for her,” Louderback said. “She knew she’d be playing a good player every match and that really helped her mentally.”

Backing up Frilling at the other slots was a talented cast, including sophomore Shannon Mathews, McGaffigan and a host of talented seniors including Kali Krisik and Cosmina Ciobanu.

“I was worried about [Mathews and McGaffigan] playing two and three because they were injured in the fall,” Louderback said. “They couldn’t prepare, so it’s almost like learning on the job. As for the seniors, their poise under pressure in big matches was excellent.”