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ND Women’s Tennis

Notre Dame prepares for top competition at Big 5 Challenge

| Thursday, September 20, 2018

As Notre Dame begins its fall season Thursday, they’ll travel to Fort Worth, Texas to participate in the Big 5 Challenge hosted by TCU. Teams from the ACC, Big 12, PAC 12 and SEC will be competing against the Irish. The tournament will take place over the course of four days.

This opener, featuring three opponents the Irish faced last season, will also include some elite talents with five teams ranked in the top 25 of the preseason poll. The Irish, who posted an 11-15 record last season, are looking for a fresh start. The fall season, with only four tournaments, will be a good introduction for the still young Irish team before heading into the thick of conference play in the spring, where they’ll be expected to take on the stacked ACC which boasts five teams in the top 25, including three in the top five.

Observer File Photo

Irish junior Zoe Spence winds up to hit the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-6 loss to North Carolina on April 6 at the Eck Tennis Center. Spence competed in No. 1 doubles with sophomore Cameron Corse.

This tournament comes at a time of transition as the the Irish have undergone dramatic changes from last season. Most importantly, the retirement of long-time head coach Jay Louderback and the announcement of his replacement in Alison Silverio. Louderback announced his retirement after a 29-year career with the program. He took over as head coach in 1989 when the women’s program was just four years old as a Division I sport. The program was nowhere near being nationally recognized and was yet to make an NCAA Tournament appearance. Louderback, largely responsible for the growth and success of the program, led the Irish to 24 NCAA tournament appearances, including 22 straight, from 1996 to 2017. The 14-time conference coach of the year also led the women to 19 conference titles.

Silverio brings a history of success to South Bend. Silverio, who played tennis at Georgia Tech, won a national championship with the Yellow Jackets in 2007, earning herself the honor of being named tournament MVP. She graduated as the all time leader in women’s double wins at 98. She was previously head coach for the women’s program at Oregon, where she built herself a reputation of creating strong recruiting classes and landed the ducks in the rankings consistently, giving them their first tournament appearance in a decade.

Additionally, the Irish added to new faces on the coaching roster as they hired new assistant head coach Courtney Scott. Scott previously served as assistant head coach at Drexel University on both the men’s and women’s teams, overseeing both of their successful seasons in which they posted 14-7 and 15-5 records, respectively.

Despite suffering a disappointing season last year — being eliminated in the first round of the ACC Championships  — the new faces of the Irish coaching staff look to continue the legacy of success left by Louderback and the talent of Notre Dame shows all the potential to continue to build on the momentum of the program. Last season then-senior Allison Miller, sophomore Cameron Corse and junior Zoe Spence were named to the All-ACC Academic Women’s Team. While Miller graduated in the spring, the doubles duo of Corse and Spence are returning, in addition to sophomore standout Ally Bojczuk, who was named “Most Improved Female” from last year’s team.

The Irish ended their season last year in a 4-2 loss to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC championships last year.

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