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ND Women’s Tennis: Michigan, Vanderbilt beat Irish

Megan Finneran | Monday, February 14, 2011

Despite back-to-back losses on Thursday and Saturday, the Irish (4-4) pulled back together to come out of the weekend’s home tournament with a win on Sunday. After falling to both No. 8 Michigan and No. 18 Vanderbilt by 4-3 decisions, No. 13 Notre Dame triumphed over Wisconsin 6-1.

The Irish pulled out of their rut on Sunday, improving with a 6-1 win over the Badgers after two consecutive losses. The freshman doubles team of Julie Sabacinski and Jennifer Kellner, who began playing together against Michigan, moved up to No. 2 for the first time in the season, and proceeded to earn a crucial 8-5 win over Wisconsin’s Jenny Hois and Angela Chupa. Their win was complemented by a victory by No. 9 junior Kristy Frilling and junior Shannon Mathews to give Notre Dame the doubles point, despite an 8-5 loss by the new duo of senior Kristen Rafael and freshman JoHanna Manningham.

In the singles rounds, five of the six matches went to the Irish. Frilling began the sets when she took down Nicky Stracar 6-2, 6-1 and Mathews followed with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Hois to seal the Irish victory. Both Frilling and Mathews remain undefeated (8-0) in singles play.

Sabacinski moved up to No. 5 singles, where she defeated Chupa 6-1, 6-4. Rafael and Kellner also racked up victories, with Manningham standing as the only Irish loss.

“Our coach said a great thing about college tennis is that there is always another match to play, and that’s what we did. We regrouped from two tough losses,” Frilling said.

The weekend began on a less than desirable note when Michigan took all three doubles matches, two of which consisted of new Irish pairings. The new duo of Rafael and sophomore Chrissie McGaffigan fell 8-3 at No. 2 doubles while the other first-time pair of freshmen Kellner and Sabacinski fell 8-2 at No. 3 doubles.

Singles got off to a better start. Frilling dominating over Michigan’s No. 11 Denise Muresan. Even with wins from Kellner at No. 6 singles and Mathews at No. 2, losses from the remaining three matches resulted in an overall loss for the Irish.

After a break on Friday, Notre Dame hosted Vanderbilt. Even with Frilling and Mathews defeating No. 20 Alex Leatu and Rachael Dillon 8-1 at No. 1 doubles, the Commodores sealed the doubles point by taking down the duo of Rafael and McGaffigan along with Kellner and Sabacinski.

With play resembling their efforts against Michigan, both Frilling and Mathews managed to overpower their singles competitors. Mathews had no trouble taking down No. 50 Leatu 6-3, 6-1, while Frilling bypassed No. 83 Jackie Wu 7-5, 6-1, marking her fifth straight win against a nationally ranked opponent. Kellner notched up her second individual win of the weekend, taking down No. 64 Rachael Dillon 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) and 6-3 after three intense sets of play.

The victories were short-lived as Rafael, McGaffigan and Sabacinski fell at the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 singles, respectively.

The week’s performances helped the Irish highlight its weaknesses and areas to work on, however.

“A key thing we really need to work on is doubles. We lost the doubles point in both those matches and lost 4-3, so that just shows how important that point is,” Frilling said. “If we win the doubles point, we win the match.”

The Irish now have a 12-day rest before their next series of matches on Feb. 25-27, when they will travel to Mobile, Ala. for the Blue-Gray Tournament.