ND Women’s Tennis
Women’s tennis puts on solid performance at home
Connor Mulvena | Tuesday, February 4, 2020
After a challenging road test in Athens, Georgia, where the Irish faced off against Furman and No. 3 Georgia, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team (5-2) returned home to host Akron on Friday, and Kentucky and Butler in a double header Sunday. The Irish finished the weekend 2-1, claiming decisive victories over Akron (0-4) and Butler (4-4-1) but falling in a match which came down to the wire against Kentucky (7-2).
The Irish started the weekend with a commanding sweep of Akron, defeating the Zips in all three matches of doubles play, as the duos of freshman Page Freeman and sophomore Maeve Koscielski, sophomore Zoe Taylor and senior Zoe Spence, and senior Bess Waldram and redshirt sophomore Julia Lilien all claimed victories to start the homestand. Following those performances, Koscielski, Lilien, Waldram and Spence all earned victories in singles play. The Irish walked away from the match with a decisive team sweep.
Notre Dame head coach Alison Silverio said the victory over Akron proved a good source of momentum for the weekend homestand, and she ultimately said she was pleased with her team’s mindset throughout the performance.
“It was great momentum going into Kentucky,” she said. “Our mindset for the weekend was to keep building on our championship mindset, and with that we had the goal and the purpose of coming out, starting with the doubles, in very much an attacking mentality, a killer mindset. I thought we accomplished that against Akron, coming out and just firing away in the doubles. We ended up taking all six singles positions, and so we did a great job taking care of business and being efficient. But also, we did a good job taking care of our opportunities in each of those matches to work on areas and different strategies that we had prepared for during the week in practice.”
However, the Irish wouldn’t start Sunday off with the same commanding win, as the Irish lost to Kentucky in a match which came down to a final set tiebreaker. Despite the loss, coach Silverio said her team made strides in honing this championship mindset she has stressed throughout the season.
“One of our goals heading into this weekend with Kentucky and Akron was to have more of an attacking mindset in doubles. We talk a lot in our program about the championship mindset, and what that means, and what that entails, and coming after our opponent, and having that attacking, killer mindset is something that is a part of having that championship mindset. So, that was a goal for us throughout the weekend, and overall, I think we accomplished that,” Silverio said.
Regardless of the loss, Silverio said the team made a good comeback throughout the rest of the competition.
“We had a very tough battle against Kentucky in the doubles, and it came down to the last match with the number one spot, and [Kentucky] was able to capitalize on a few more opportunities than we were, and obviously we ended up going down 1-0 in the team match score. So, from that standpoint, I thought we rebounded back very well, and all six spots were competing at a high level,” she said. “We had one of our spots, number five, get beat and get off the court quickly, but our other five spots really rallied and competed. We put ourselves in a position to be successful against Kentucky. I think the lesson there was ultimately that when we are playing the tougher competition, and we’re certainly going to see that throughout the rest of the season and the ACC conference, we’ve got to all show up on the same day and be ready to go. That doesn’t necessarily mean that our tennis is going to be perfect in every single one of those matches, but our mentality and the areas that we have control over — that has to be there 100%. And we have to be all in with that. So, it’s a tough lesson to learn, but it’s a great lesson to learn early on in the season, to know the development that we are making, but also understanding the areas where we still need to improve.”
Silverio went on to commend Kentucky for the victory as well, and she said her squad will ultimately walk away from the trial with a sharper focus as they go on to compete for a national championship.
“It was a great battle against Kentucky. And certainly credit to Kentucky — they never gave up, they fought until the finish. Same with us,” she said. “We fought to the finish, never gave up. Our match certainly came down to the wire, with the last match, us losing in a third set tiebreaker. It shows that, at the end of the day, in sports there is a winner and there is a loser. We were on the losing end on Sunday, but as I mentioned, it was a great lesson for us to learn. It was certainly something that we’re going to use to carry momentum into next weekend and throughout the rest of the season to have that championship mindset in all that we do.”
The Irish would ultimately finish the Sunday homestand with a commanding sweep of Butler, ending the weekend on a good note. After last week’s test, Silverio commented on the unique challenge presented to a player like senior Zoe Spence, who has competed in the number one spot for the Irish, considering the elite level of competition which the ACC poses. Silverio emphasized the importance of such leadership as the season continues.
“We had great leadership at the top of our lineup — [senior] Zoe [Spence], [junior] Cameron Corse — they both have really been handling those top positions well. They both had wins over ranked opponents this weekend. And again, in the ACC, we’re playing the best of the best,” she said. “We ultimately have goals to be a championship program, and we’re certainly going to compete for a National Championship. We know that doesn’t happen over night, but we need that strong leadership at the top, which trickles down throughout the rest of our players. So, the number one spot is certainly a position that is important, but every position on our team is important. Every position counts for one point. But understanding the battle, and just that warrior attitude that you have to have going out into every match is important and I think Zoe, having the experience last year playing in that top spot and then coming back her senior year and playing again in the top spot, she’s able to call on a lot of the experiences last year, and I think that has shown, not only to her, but also to the other players on our team that have been stepping up and understanding that we’re all going to have to show up and fight, and battle and grind every single match that we have.”
The Irish will remain home Friday, where they will take on Northwestern. But soon after, Notre Dame will head to West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on Purdue on Sunday.