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ND Women’s Tennis

Irish to face pair of Big Ten foes

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No. 20 Notre Dame will take to the road this weekend for matches with Big Ten opponents No. 44 Illinois and No. 52 Indiana.

Following a split this past weekend with a loss to No. 10 Stanford followed by a win over No. 31 Ohio State, the Irish (3-2) will now have to leave the friendly confines of Eck Tennis Pavilion when they travel to Champaign, Illinois, on Saturday to take on the Illini (3-1) and Bloomington, Indiana, on Sunday to take on the Hoosiers (6-1).

Irish junior Julie Vrabel prepares to serve during Notre Dame's 6-1 loss to Stanford on Friday at Eck Tennis Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish junior Julie Vrabel prepares to serve during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to Stanford on Friday at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Although they did not walk away with two wins, Irish coach Jay Louderback said he was very happy with his team’s performance this past weekend.

“First off, I felt like we played really well,” Louderback said. “Both are tough teams. … I felt like our kids did a good job of not worrying about what they’re ranked and playing them tight, which is good. We’ve started off playing some tough teams in Stanford, Michigan and now Ohio State, and it’s not going to get a whole lot easier as we get into the ACC, but our kids are competing really well.”

This weekend, however, will be the first time that the Irish take the road this season. Saturday, they take on Illinois, who is 3-0 at home. They follow that up with matchup against Indiana on Sunday, who is 4-1 at home. Louderback said he believes acquiring experience on the road is important for the team going forward.

“[Being on the road] will definitely be different,” Louderback said. “It will be good for us because we have been at home so far, so it’s good to get your team out. It’s tougher to win matches on the road too. You got the whole crowd against you, so our kids have to have each others’ back. It’s just good to get that experience on the road.

In addition, Louderback said playing away from home this weekend will force the team to play through some unique challenges.

“The other thing is that we are playing on four different indoor courts in those matches, so we’ll have to start adjusting to the speeds of different courts,” Louderback said. “And at a lot of different places the lighting is dim, so being on the road gives us that little adversity that we have to go through.”

This past weekend, the Irish had a full day of rest in between their matches against Stanford and Ohio State. This weekend, however, they will have to play on consecutive days, which Louderback said is crucial for preparing the team for the biggest tournaments of the year.

“[Playing back-to-back days] is a little bit tougher, especially when you get into those tough matches,” Louderback said. “It’s another thing we have to get used to, something that we haven’t done yet, so it will be good, because to win the conference tournament, you have to play four days in a row, and the NCAAs is the same way.”

Both the Hoosiers and the Illini are off to good starts this season, only losing twice combined to top-50 ranked teams. The key to two victories this weekend for Notre Dame is winning the doubles point in both matches, Louderback said.

“[Indiana and Illinois] both historically have had good doubles teams,” Louderback said. “You can lose the doubles point to either one of them, and if you get down 1-0, especially on the road, it makes it tough. We’ve been working hard on our doubles, and I think we’ve made a big jump from the fall to the spring, but we still just have to keep working on it. That’s a big key though, because it gives you a lot more confidence if you win the doubles.”

The Irish will travel to Champaign, Illinois, on Saturday to battle the Illini at 11 a.m.  They will then hit the road again Sunday to take on the Hoosiers in Bloomington, Indiana, also at 11 a.m.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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