ND Women’s Tennis: Irish win Big East title
Katie Heit | Friday, May 20, 2011
With the strength of No. 5 junior Kristy Frilling’s leadership and an infusion of talent from the freshman class, No. 20 Notre Dame battled through adversity to post a 17-10 record this season and won the Big East title to advance to the NCAA tournament.
“Our team has persevered through some adversity this year and I think we’ve shown that as we’ve positively progressed throughout the season,” Frilling said. “Everyone has worked very hard and has improved a lot.”
The Irish had a strong season in singles and doubles action, ending with a winning record in both areas. Senior Kristen Rafael attributed the team’s versatility to hard work on the court.
“I think our strength is our willingness to never give up and keep improving with every match,” senior Rafael said. “Our season has not been perfect, but we know that with every opportunity, we will improve into the great team that we know we have the ability to be.”
Rafael ended her college career on a high note with a seven-match winning streak at No. 4 singles.
“I am going to miss playing for and representing such an amazing university, my coaches who have supported me in every aspect of my life from day one and the struggles, fight and passion I share with the team I have the opportunity to play next to,” Rafael said.
The Irish earned various individual accolades for their 2010-11 season. Frilling was named the Big East Player of the Year for the second straight season after losing only four matches. In addition, Irish coach Jay Louderback earned the Big East Coach of the Year award. This year’s award, Louderback’s second in a row, marks the ninth time he has earned the honor since the Irish joined the Big East. Notre Dame’s trip to the NCAA tournament was also the 18th in Louderback’s 22-year coaching career.
Junior Shannon Mathews and freshman Jennifer Kellner also earned spots on the all-Big East team.
In doubles, Mathews and Kellner ended their season with a 19-4 record. They lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to the Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton. The Northwestern duo broke Frilling and Mathews’ 17-game winning streak.
Mathews also performed well in singles, earning the Most Outstanding Player in the Big East tournament award.
Frilling was proud of the way her team worked together this season.
“I think our team has great chemistry and we all care about how we do and about each other,” Frilling said. “Little things like that really help, even when you don’t think it matters.”
The Irish were disappointed with their season-ending defeat by Northwestern, but the loss only made them more eager for revenge next season.
“The most difficult part of any season is the losses,” Rafael said. “It also gives us motivation to fight and be hungrier for the next match.”
The graduating Rafael said she feels confident that Notre Dame’s young talent will enable the team to compete at a high level after she leaves.
“With four freshmen, one of our greatest strengths was the ability for them to step up and play like veterans, like Kellner and Julie Sabacinski have,” Rafael said.