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ND Women’s Tennis: Notre Dame faces ranked opponents in Honolulu

Kelsey Manning | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The No. 21 Irish head to Hawaii for a week of warm weather, a transition from indoor to outdoor play and three tough matches as Notre Dame takes on No. 20 Texas Tech, No. 52 Hawaii and No. 62 Wyoming in the Aloha State over spring break.

For the Irish (9-4, 1-0 Big East), the Hawaii trip is one that occurs just once in four years. Senior co-captain and reigning Big East Player of the Week Shannon Mathews said it is particularly exciting for her and senior co-captain Kristy Frilling to experience the trip in their final year.

“We do this trip every four years, so each girl on the tennis team will go once in her four years,” she said. “So it’s kind of a cool experience so for Kristy and I. This is our first time and it’s cool to get to do it as seniors. It should be really, really fun. Neither of us has been there before, so we’re excited.”

The team will depart early Saturday morning and return the following Saturday. While Irish coach Jay Louderback has mentioned some exciting jaunts like whale watching and hiking in years past, Mathews said Louderback has a few different things in the works for the team this week.

“[Coach Louderback] was saying yesterday that he’s been in contact with the president of the Notre Dame club of Hawaii, so they get pretty excited,” she said. “I think we’re going to do a luau one of the nights, and then there is a Notre Dame alum who is a naval officer in Hawaii who may possibly give us a private tour of Pearl Harbor. We’re still in the midst of figuring out if we do that. We’ll probably see Pearl Harbor anyway, but it would be really cool to have a sneak peak and tour from a Notre Dame alum as well.”

This will be Notre Dame’s first contest of the spring season on outdoor courts, and though it will certainly be a transition, Mathews said it is one the Irish are excited for.

“I think it’s going to be tough because these will be our first matches outdoors,” the senior said. “It’s always an adjustment coming from playing indoors and then going on spring break and playing outside, but we always love it. We love playing outside. We get sick of cold weather and being cooped up in South Bend, so we kind of get really excited to go somewhere warm, especially Hawaii.”

Aside from sightseeing and enjoying the weather, the Irish are focused on their opponents at hand. Mathews said one team in particular that will pose a challenge is No. 20 Texas Tech — the Red Raiders (9-2, 1-0 Big 12) jumped past Notre Dame in the rankings this week after beating No. 11 Baylor. Additionally, the match will have a little bit of familial competition, Mathews said.

“We know that Texas Tech has come off a good win against Baylor and are ranked one ahead of us right now so I think that will be a tough match for us,” she said. “Also [sophomore Britney Sanders] has a twin sister, [sophomore Nikki Sanders], on the Texas Tech team so that will be fun for them to see each other but obviously to play against her will be a little bit unique for both of them.”

Also on the slate for the week are Hawaii (5-4) — where the Irish will be playing all three matches — and Wyoming (7-4).

Despite losing to No. 3 Duke last weekend, the Irish shut out Iowa and was able to claim the doubles point in both, giving them four straight doubles points. After an early spring season that saw the Irish floundering the doubles point more often than not, the consistency was what Louderback said he had expected from his team all along.

Mathews said the team is looking to build on last weekend’s success and carry it over to this week.

“Last weekend we played two good teams, both of them with three really solid doubles teams, so being able to win the doubles point against Iowa as well as Duke was a really great improvement for us,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard on our doubles play and improving that throughout the season. It’s great momentum to have going into the singles play so we’re going to keep it up and keep working hard to be able to win that doubles point because it makes it so much easier only having to win three singles matches instead of four.”

Overall, Mathews said the Irish are looking forward to competition and leisure alike.

“They are going to be three tough matches for us so we’re going there ready to compete, working hard throughout the week, but also enjoying Hawaii at the same time,” she said.

Notre Dame will take on Texas Tech on Monday, Hawaii on Wednesday and Wyoming on Thursday, all in Honolulu.


Contact Kelsey Manning at [email protected]