ND Women’s Tennis
ND wins three of four over break
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, March 18, 2014
While most students were taking full advantage of spring break, the Irish were still swinging away, as the team played four matches over break. After dropping a hard-fought match to No. 15 Clemson on March 7, the Irish (8-6, 2-4 ACC) earned their first ever ACC win, defeating No. 25 Florida State on March 9 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame continued the momentum over the break, going on a three-game winning streak with victories on the road over the College of Charleston and Boston College.Although the team fell 5-2 to Clemson, Irish sophomore Julie Vrabel and seniors Jennifer Kellner and Brittany Sanders all lost in three-set matches. Both seniors got their matches to a tiebreaker in their respective third sets but could not come out on top.
“The kids have been fighting hard,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “[Clemson] has been up in the top 10 at times this year.”
Notre Dame did have two bright spots on the day, as freshmen Mary Closs and Monica Robinson came away victorious in their singles matches. Closs defeated sophomore Yuilynn Maio, 6-2, 6-3, and Robinson, with her parents in the stands, came from behind to defeat Tigers sophomore Tristen Dewar, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
Early in the year, the Irish were able to win a number of doubles points that proved important in close victories, but since ACC play started, they had failed to win a single doubles point. The lack of production led Louderback to switch up the doubles teams, pairing seniors Kellner and Julie Sabacinski and freshmen Robinson and Jane Fennelly at the two and three positions, respectively.
“The biggest factor with us right now is our doubles is getting better,” said Louderback. “We’ve got good combinations right now. They’ve played well, which really helps us if we can go up 1-0 into the singles.”
The shake-up worked for the Irish and during the remaining three matches of break, they earned the doubles point in every one. Against the Seminoles, the first doubles team of senior Sanders and junior Quinn Gleason earned an 8-6 victory and Kellner and Sabacinski clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 win in the second spot, while Robinson and Fennelly’s match went unfinished. The same Irish duos would provide the victories for the doubles point against the College of Charleston on March 11 with Sanders/Gleason and Kellner/Sabacinski getting it done against the Eagles on Saturday.
In its battle with the Seminoles, Notre Dame dropped only one point en route to a 6-1 victory, with Gleason once again clinching a match, coming back from a first-set loss to earn a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 win. Kellner, Robinson, Closs and Vrabel also earned singles victories for the Irish.
“We played very well,” said Louderback of the win over the Seminoles. “[Florida State] has been good this year.”
The Irish took a quick break from ACC play to take a trip to South Carolina in a non-conference match against the College of Charleston. As they cruised to a 7-0 win, the team also gained important experience playing outdoors again.
“Right now weather looks like we’ll be outside for most of our trips south for the rest of the year,” said Louderback, with his team practicing behind him during a 50-degree South Bend afternoon. “We’ve got to get out.”
In Boston on Saturday, the Irish capitalized on their early advantage from the doubles win to fight and claw their way to a 6-1 win over the Eagles. Although the score ended up lopsided, all but one singles match went to three sets. Sanders epitomized the fight displayed all day by the Irish, coming from a set down to win, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
“We played really well last weekend,” said Louderback. “We knew it was going to a close match. … Sanders came back and ended up clinching the match for us. We ended up 6-1, but it was definitely closer than that.”
The Irish will look to continue their winning ways on their last big road trip for a while, but ACC play does not get any easier for them this weekend. Notre Dame travels to No. 5 Virginia on Friday and then No. 6 North Carolina on Sunday.