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ND Women’s Tennis

Sophomores step up for Irish

| Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Notre Dame opens the season in the final week of September, it will field a relatively young but battle-tested, team. Although the Irish will be looking to replace three seniors from a year ago, plenty of experience returns with the remaining youth — including sophomores Monica Robinson and Mary Closs.

Both saw plenty of time in the lineup in their first collegiate year and became regulars in the singles lineups. Robinson, who played fourth position most of the year, finished 24-10 (9-4 ACC), while Closs, who played right behind her at fifth position, accumulated a similar mark of 20-13 (9-5 ACC). Closs was also a fixture in the doubles rotation for the Irish, pairing with then-senior Julie Sabacinski for the first half of the year and current senior Molly O’Koniewski for the second half. The Closs-O’Koniewski tandem was successful in that time, going 4-1 in the final five regular-season matches.

“I think the beginning of [last] season was a transition period,” Closs said. “But by the end of the season, it all came together, and I think we ended strong.”

“We all believed in each other,” Robinson added. “It paid off when we played [NCAA regional host] Northwestern. … Upsetting them was really cool.”

Irish sophomore Monica Robinson celebrates after winning a point in Notre Dame’s match against  Indiana on Feb. 2 at Courtney Tennis Center. Notre Dame defeated Indiana 4-3.Emmet Farnan
Irish sophomore Monica Robinson celebrates after winning a point in Notre Dame’s match against
Indiana on Feb. 2 at Courtney Tennis Center. Notre Dame defeated Indiana 4-3.
With the Irish graduating three top players, both Closs and Robinson know there are large shoes to fill going into this season.

“Our seniors last year were big leaders, and they helped come through with the team in big matches,” Closs said. “All of us younger players learned from them. … We have a somewhat young team, but there is a lot of positive energy and hard work.”

“I’ve never seen such enthusiastic work,” Robinson said. “Wanting to stay on the court all the time, which is really neat because hard work, it just rubs off — it’s contagious. It’s awesome.”

The two sophomores even knew each other before they arrived at Notre Dame. Closs hails from Menlo Park, Calif., in the San Francisco area, while Robinson calls Valley Center, Calif., home, situated between San Diego and Los Angeles. The two never directly faced off as singles players and only met each other once in a double match but were familiar with each other and talked more as the recruiting process picked up, they said.

“We saw each other a lot in tournaments,” Robinson said. “The tennis world is a small world, so you go onto [The Tennis Recruiting Network], and I remember seeing her name a lot.”

“We knew both of us were looking here,” Closs said. “I was glad when she committed, when we both knew we were coming.”

“She did!” Robinson said when asked who committed first as the pair shared a laugh. “She was the brave one.”

The two found themselves together again over the summer, when they were roommates for summer classes.

“We’ve become close,” Robinson said. “Learned a lot about each other.”

“We’re even better friends now because we know each other better,” Closs added. “It’s fun being on a team, getting all that time together.”

“We trained a lot, did a lot of conditioning which was nice,” Robinson continued. “I’d say we got fit and stronger in the summer, so coming back now isn’t too different.”

As Notre Dame works towards its season-opening tournament at the end of September, both players said they are eager to start the season.

“I’m excited for this season, for the whole team, for the freshmen,” Closs said. “I just think it will be a fun year overall. Second year in the ACC, Under Armour. … Hopefully, it all just works out.”

The Irish begin their fall season by hosting the Notre Dame Invitational at the Courtney Tennis Center on Sept. 26-28.

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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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