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ND Women’s Tennis: Sanders qualifies for singles final

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Early this month, the Big East named junior Britney Sanders its women’s tennis player of the month for September. If her performance in the first four days of the Midwest Regional Championships is any indication, it’s an honor she’s trying to hold on to for four more weeks.

Sanders, the No. 98 individual in the nation, qualified for Tuesday’s singles final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Northwestern junior Belinda Niu, who is ranked No. 117. The Monday evening match was the third of the day for Sanders, who upset No. 9 Michigan sophomore Emina Bektas in three sets in the quarterfinal earlier in the day. 

“The longer I’m here, the better I play,” Sanders said. “I work really hard to win every match so after every match I feel like there is no way I have enough energy to play the next round, but when I’m on the court, I somehow find a way.”

The win over Bektas marked Sanders’ first win over an opponent ranked in the top 10.

“She is known to have one of the biggest serves in college women’s tennis so I was extremely happy every time I broke her serve,” Sanders said. “I was down in the third set against her 3-4 when she was serving. I knew if I lost that game she’d only need one more game to win and I didn’t want that to happen. So I did whatever I could to get her serves back and stay in the points and was able to break her to bring it to four-all. If I had lost that game I might have lost the match.”

But her first doubles match of the day, the tournament final, did not end in Notre Dame’s favor. Sanders and doubles partner junior Julie Sabacinski, who are ranked No. 36, were beaten 8-6 by Illinois sophomore Melissa Kopinski and senior Rachael White. It was the first loss of any kind for Sanders so far this fall.

Sanders was not the only Notre Dame athlete who stood out from her competitors on the Illinois campus. 

Each of the four Irish doubles pairs won at least two matches and made it to the round of 16. Junior Jennifer Kellner and senior Chrissie McGaffigan made it all the way to the semifinal round before being knocked out by Kopinski and White, who won in the tiebreaker by a final score of 9-8(3).

“I was disappointed, especially in the doubles, since we were just so close,” Kellner said. “Chrissie and I always enjoy playing together, however, and she played absolutely amazing.”

Kopinski and White also knocked off Notre Dame freshman Quinn Gleason and junior JoHanna Manningham in a close 9-7 match in the round of 16 on Saturday. The only Irish pairing that didn’t fall to the Illini were freshman Molly O’Koniewski and sophomore Katherine White, who lost 8-2 to the No. 10 pairing of senior Linda Abu Mushrefova and junior Nida Hamilton of Northwestern in the round of 16.

The Irish also had several impressive runs in the singles draw. Gleason made it to the round of 16 in just her second collegiate tournament, while Kellner was knocked out in the same round by No. 12 Northwestern senior Kate Turvy, who will be Sanders’ opponent in the tournament final.

Sanders will face off against Turvy at the University of Illinois Atkins Tennis Center at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the hopes of capturing her first collegiate tournament title. A win in the final would guarantee an automatic berth at the National Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y., on Nov. 8-11.

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at [email protected]