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Irish opens fall season by hosting invitational

| Sunday, September 28, 2014

After a long, hot summer of training and practicing, Notre Dame welcomed five other teams to the Courtney Tennis Pavilion this weekend to kick off its fall schedule at the Notre Dame Invitational. The tournament was the first official action of the Irish’s 2014-2015 schedule as well as a chance for the team to play against opponents outside of their team.

Irish junior Julie Vrabel prepares to return a shot during a match in the Notre Dame Invitational this weekend. Vrabel won one singles match in the invitational.Rosie Biehl | The Observer
Irish junior Julie Vrabel prepares to return a shot during a match in the Notre Dame Invitational this weekend. Vrabel won one singles match in the invitational.
“The biggest thing for the whole weekend was to get matches in,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “We just needed to play. We’ve got ones who haven’t played real matches since the NCAAs [last May]. … This helps show us what we’ve got to work on.”

Sophomore Mary Closs led the Irish charge in singles, going 2-1 on the weekend with victories over Illinois sophomore Louise Kwong and Tulane  Vanessa Nommensen. Freshman Allie Miller posted two wins as well, defeating Tulane freshman Naz Karagozand and senior Julia Jamieson of Illinois. Juniors Julie Vrabel and Darby Mountford also chipped in a win apiece.

While disappointed with the lack of singles wins, Louderback said the opportunity for some of the athletes to play against stronger competition than they usually had was very important.

“We didn’t win a lot of matches,” Louderback said. “But the good thing was our kids were able to play up against kids higher than they normally would, and if they [want] to get up higher in their lineup, they get to see what they’ve got to do to get there.”

Notre Dame’s two top players, junior Quinn Gleason and sophomore Monica Robinson, did not participate in the tournament because they were both invited to the 2014 ITA Women’s All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, California. Robinson participated in the pre-qualifying singles draw this weekend, winning her first-round matchup before falling in the second round, Louderback said. Gleason is scheduled to leave tomorrow as she prepares for her qualifying singles draw. Both girls will also play together in the doubles tournament that begins Tuesday.

A third Irish player, freshman Brooke Broda, also did not participate due to an injury.

Last season, Notre Dame struggled in the doubles portion of their matches for much of the season. This weekend, the duo of Miller and senior Molly O’Koniewski, paired up as a doubles team in the early-season experimentation by Louderback, finished as the top Irish duo of the weekend with a record of 2-2 and victories over senior Emily Dvorak and sophomore Kyla Klier of Tulane and Illinois sophomore Jerricka Boone and freshman Jade Hilton. Closs and fellow sophomore Jane Fennelly went 1-3 during the tournament while Vrabel and her senior partner Katherine White finished 1-3 as well.

“We looked at doubles combinations. That was a big thing,” Louderback said. “And we will again and we’ll probably have different ones at the next tournament and get a chance to see different people playing together.”

Another important part of this weekend was as a trial of new rules the NCAA coaches association is trying out, with the intent of speeding up matches. The main change was not going to advantage after deuce at the end of a set if tied, instead going to a sudden death point once deuce is reached. Louderback said he was less than impressed.

“We still had matches that went over three hours,” he said. “So it felt like it didn’t shorten them very much. … Personally I don’t like it. I’ve been against it. If we go to it fine, we’ll do it, if we’re doing it just to shorten matches.

“Coaches have said it makes it more exciting. I don’t think it makes matches any more exciting than the regular scoring.”

The Irish players took Louderback’s side, he said.

“Our kids definitely didn’t like it, but again, if we have to do it, we’ll get used to it,” he said. “We’ll adjust.”

Notre Dame’s next scheduled action, other than the All-American tournament this week, is at the Midwest Regional Tournament in Champaign, Illinois, from Oct. 16-21.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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