ND Women’s Tennis
Louderback mixes youth with experience
Zach Klonsinski | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
After continually being among the top teams in the Big East, the Irish face new challenges with the team’s move to the ACC, having to prepare for new opponents, facilities and playing styles. The Irish are now in a conference with six teams who finished last season ranked above them in the final polls.
“The ACC, top to bottom, might be the best conference in the country,” said Irish coach Jay Louderback, now entering his 25th season at the helm of the program. Louderback also noted that although they have never played in the conference before, the Irish are not complete strangers to ACC competition.
“We’ve usually played three or four ACC schools every year in our regular season, so we’ve been to a lot of those schools,” he said.
Louderback and assistant coach Catrina Thompson will look to the experience of the team’s three seniors: Britney Sanders, Jennifer Kellner and Julie Sabacinski.
“We have three seniors that have played in our lineup for three years … They all have played number one doubles at times so they’ve got a lot of good match experience, big match experience,” said Louderback. “We have three freshmen that are going to be playing for us that haven’t been through any college tennis so those seniors will really help us with that transition.”
This freshman-senior relationship has already manifested itself on the doubles court. Two of the three doubles teams for the Irish are made up of a senior and a freshman. Kellner and freshman Monica Robinson will team up as well as Sabacinski and freshman Mary Closs. The other doubles team consists of Sanders and her sophomore partner from last year Quinn Gleason.
“We felt like with three seniors, the experience they have would be unbelievable to have one on each doubles team,” said Louderback. “We tried it in the fall … and the teams meshed really well. We felt very good about it.”
The good results quickly followed in the fall, as the Irish doubles squads defeated Michigan’s number-one-and two doubles teams in the first tournament of the year.
“They looked really good,” said Louderback. “It was just something we tried and it happened to work immediately.”
As the fall season progressed, sometimes the team would send different players to different tournaments around the country, often splitting up the three teams and causing players to constantly play with different partners, something Louderback said would be good both for those already in the doubles rotation and for increasing the depth of the team overall.
“When someone’s out, we’ve got two or three others that will be able to just go right in,” he said.
On the singles side, Louderback thinks the team will be very deep, Five of the six slots on the singles side to start the year will consist of players who also play doubles in a typical dual match, with the sixth position still open for a number of different players to play their way into.
“I feel like we just don’t have any holes this year,” said Louderback. “We look very good from [position] one to six.”
Louderback will look to his seniors off the court as well to teach the ins and outs of college tennis, as the team has to do a lot more traveling this year than last.
“Flying out of here in February is not always fun.”
Contact Zach Klonsinski at [email protected]