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ND Women’s Tennis: Team unity keeps Irish focused on the road

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Notre Dame students have various ways of dealing with the permanent gray skies of the winter months. For members of the women’s tennis team, escaping the dull and dreary South Bend winter is often just one road match against an SEC opponent away.

“I love going to places that are different from South Bend,” sophomore Britney Sanders said. “This weekend is a perfect example. We went to Knoxville and Nashville, which are very southern areas. I loved hearing the southern accents and seeing people wear cowboy boots. It was also warm, which is

a great break from the snow in South Bend.”

As much as the Irish (5-2, 1-0 Big East) enjoy occasional breaks from sub-freezing temperatures, they spend a lot more time studying than sunbathing on road trips.

“You can see when we’re flying or on the bus, the kids spend a lot of time studying,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “It’s a little bit like the library or something. I’ll get up for breakfast and go down to the lobby, and in the morning and there’s a couple already up that are studying then, so they do a lot of studying on the road.”

Several members of the team say the “traveling library” is necessary because they often miss classes to compete in away meets.

“The worst part about being on the road is staying on top of schoolwork and communicating with groups,” junior Chrissie McGaffigan said. “It also can be draining when we travel all day.”

But the point of these road trips is to play competitive tennis, and the Irish often welcome extra practice to acquaint themselves with unfamiliar facilities before the match.

“The day of the match, if we have an afternoon match, we’ll usually hit in late morning at those courts just to get another chance to hit on them,” Louderback said. “Then we get a longer warm-up, and it’s mainly just to get used to the courts and the lighting and everything.”

While adjusting to an opponent’s home court can be difficult, Louderback said the visiting team does have some advantages.

“The disadvantage is just being used to the courts and the lighting and the opposing team’s crowd; that’s the toughest thing,” Louderback said. “The good thing for us is that it’s good to have the kids all together; they’re not in the dorm or in their apartments at night. Our seniors live off-campus and we know they’re in their rooms, and it’s nice on the road having everyone together all the time.”

The players said they enjoy their nights bonding as a team during long road trips.

“When we are off the court during away matches, we are usually laughing,” McGaffigan said. “We try to utilize our time to do schoolwork, but we all love getting to spend time with each other.”

Sanders also said the team has no trouble amusing itself.

“We like to hang out with each other in the hotel. We don’t go out much because we want to rest up for the next match,” Sanders said. “We end up watching a movie together or just talking and laughing about random things. We joke about starting a book of all our funny quotes.”

The Irish hit the road next on a spring break trip to Honolulu, where Notre Dame will take on Texas Tech, Hawaii and Southern Methodist. Louderback said the trip will feature top-notch tennis in an ideal setting.

“Every four years we go to Hawaii, and we go there this year,” Louderback said. “The last time we were there we went out on a boat, went whale watching; we went up to look at volcanoes. We always have a great trip when we go to Hawaii.”