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ND Women’s Tennis: Ranked teams challenge Irish

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Irish lost control of a close match with Northwestern and fell to Baylor in front of rowdy crowd, but redeemed themselves Monday when they closed out a three-game stretch against top-25 opponents with a 6-1 victory over Texas A&M.

“I think the win over Texas A&M was important for us in our momentum going forward,” sophomore Jennifer Kellner said. “Although we lost to Northwestern and Baylor, I think they are both teams we are very capable of beating and we hope to play them in the NCAA tournament.”

No. 18 Notre Dame (15-7, 3-0 Big East) swept the doubles point to begin its April 4 home match against No. 14 Northwestern (13-7, 3-0 Big Ten) and won two of the first three individual decisions as sophomore Britney Sanders beat sophomore Veronica Corning, 6-1, 6-0, senior Shannon Mathews fell to junior Kate Turvy 6-3, 6-2, and senior Kristy Frilling beat sophomore Belinda Niu 6-1, 6-4.

But the Irish couldn’t close out their final three contests on the Courtney Tennis Center courts as sophomore Julie Sabacinski, junior Chrissie McGaffigan and Kellner all lost their individual matches, and the Wildcats went home with a 4-3 win.

Although the Irish arrived in Waco, Texas, for their April 7 match ready to get back to winning, the No. 12 Bears (19-5, 3-1 Big 12) swept them in doubles, ending Notre Dame’s streak of 11 straight doubles wins. The match didn’t get much better during the individual matches, as Kellner picked up Notre Dame’s only point in the 6-1 loss when sophomore Jordaan Sanford retired while trailing Kellner 6-1, 3-2.

“We got to Baylor and had a tough match with them,” Mathews said. “We always do, and they always seem to have a really rowdy crowd when we play them at Baylor, which they did.”

Mathews said that Notre Dame’s struggles, especially in doubles, were probably an aberration.

“We definitely didn’t play up to our potential against Baylor,” Mathews said. “We really struggled with doubles, which is very uncharacteristic of us, and it’s something we don’t want to dwell on too much because we’ve been playing such great doubles throughout the season, so we’ll be able to bounce back.”

But the Irish recovered Monday with a 6-1 win over No. 21 Texas A&M (13-3, 4-1 Big 12). After sweeping the doubles matches to take a 1-0 lead, the Irish won five individual matches, three of them by straight sets. Kellner defeated senior Lauren Santacroce 6-1, 6-2, McGaffigan beat senior Sheri Olivier 6-2, 6-3, and Sabacinski shut down freshman Janine Erasmus 6-3, 6-4 for the match-clinching point. It took Sanders three sets to beat junior Wen Sun, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, and as the match had already been decided in Notre Dame’s favor, Mathews was able to claim victory over No. 7 junior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (13-11) in a tiebreaker instead of playing a full third set.

Sanchez-Quintanar is the highest-ranked player Mathews has beaten in an individual match during her Notre Dame career.

“It was a really long, long match,” Mathews said of her contest with Sanchez-Quintanar. “I think our first game of the match, some people were already in their fifth game. We had really long points, and she’s a really good player and we had a really great match. It was a grueling one, that’s for sure.”

Although the Irish were on the road for Easter, they didn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate.

“For Easter, we went to mass and went to a special brunch that was a lot of fun,” Kellner said. “While we couldn’t be with our families on Easter, it was fun to spend it with the team.”

The Irish will jump back into Big East action against South Florida at the Courtney Tennis Center at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]