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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish keep busy during summer

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summertime might be relaxing for many students, but for members of the women’s tennis team, the hazy days of July and August are far from lazy — and it doesn’t get any easier once the school year starts.

The Irish began their summer adventures fresh from their fourth consecutive Big East championship and were fully aware of the training needed to capture a fifth. Some team members took advantage of the short break to go abroad, while others stayed on campus to prepare for the next season.

Junior Chrissie McGaffigan spent the summer studying in Ireland, an experience several older teammates took advantage of in previous summers.

Student athletes don’t get the opportunity to study abroad during the semesters like regular students, senior Shannon Mathews said.

“We’re playing year-round,” Mathews said. “During the summer we do a lot of different things that we aren’t able to do during the season, whether it’s study abroad, getting an internship or going to see family.”

In past summers, Mathews studied in Paris and senior Kristy Frilling studied in South Africa.

“I was able to travel around and see Europe, so it was a really great opportunity and something that Kristy, Chrissie and I really wanted to be a part of,” Mathews said.

But even traveling through Africa or holding an internship in Chicago doesn’t excuse an athlete from the training required to stay in shape.

“It’s up to us go hit with each other or work out or go run,” Mathews said. “We want to keep up with our fitness and that kind of thing and set a regimen.”

Other Irish tennis players sought educational experiences a little closer to home. Three sophomores — Jennifer Kellner, Britney Sanders and Julie Sabacinski — stayed on campus to take extra classes. They trained with each other and with Frilling and sophomore JoHanna Manningham, both of whom live in South Bend.

The five players who remained close to campus met twice a week for morning training sessions and got together nearly every day of the summer to hit around.

Manningham and Kellner kept their skills sharp by competing in summer tournaments, but for most of the team, regular season practices will be more demanding than the training done during the off-season.

“The off-season is definitely more relaxed,” Sabacinski said. “In-season is pretty intense — everyone is working pretty hard. It’s not way harder, but it’s definitely harder.”

Unlike more casual summer hit-around sessions, official practices feature daily hits that can last for an hour and a half to two hours, as well as specific drills and scrimmage matches. The team also lifts weights with a trainer two times a week and goes on training runs with an assistant coach.

Due to NCAA regulations, captains must organize and oversee practices until Sept. 13, when coaches will be allowed to attend practices for the first time this academic year. The fall tournament schedule will also be finalized around this time.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]