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ND Women’s Tennis

Irish women’s tennis cool under pressure all season

| Friday, May 15, 2020

Though unaware it would be the last contest of the year, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team concluded its 2020 spring campaign with an intense match at Louisville, a strong ACC opponent. The match was hotly contested on all courts, as the Irish (11-5, 3-2 ACC) escaped with a 4-2 victory, the separation between the two teams even thinner than the final score suggested. Although the Irish at the time had hopes for a deep postseason run, the victory against Louisville was an impressive end to the season.

All year long, Notre Dame engaged in close matches against conference and non-conference opponents alike. Nine of their 16 matches were decided by a 4-2 or 4-3 match score. Notre Dame was hardly overwhelmed by the high-pressure situations, posting a solid 5-4 record in those contests. Their composure under pressure was established in a team culture that was cultivated in the fall. 

Looking at the fall record of the Notre Dame women’s tennis team may not have impressed the average viewer, but head coach Alison Silverio said she wasn’t too worried.

“In the fall, our goals and major focuses were to continue our fundamentals and work ethic, and consistency is a part of that,” Silverio said. “Through the fall, we emphasized leadership and holding each other accountable. I think we had some struggles from a results standpoint, but we had little victories along the way.”

Zachary Llorens | The Observer

Irish senior Bess Waldram serves the ball during Notre Dame’s 4-0 win over Purdue on Feb. 13, 2019.

Silverio, a second-year coach with the Irish, worked hard to establish a culture of accountability and effort in her team, even bringing her squad on what she described as a “leadership boot camp.”

“It was really great to see our players in that environment, where they were pushing each other both physically and mentally,” she said.

That trip came the weekend before the spring season, setting the tone for what was a promising start to Notre Dame’s season before the early end of the season. After a dominating series against Bowling Green, Notre Dame travelled to Georgia for the ITA Kickoff Classic, where the Irish grinded out a 4-2 victory over a strong Furman squad before going toe-to-toe with the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs in the championship. The Irish were within 3-2 before dropping the final two single matches. However, the ability to compete with one of the best and deepest teams in the country boosted Notre Dame’s confidence as the team progressed through a grueling schedule.

Their non-conference slate included 4-3 losses to Kentucky and Northwestern, along with 4-3 victories over Purdue and Southern California.

“We were being pushed physically and mentally, and we were making adjustments along the way to get better,” Silverio said on the team’s competitive start to the season. “We had certain individuals stepping up from a performance standpoint, a leadership standpoint, a support standpoint, and overall, that just raised our team’s morale. It was great to see everyone embrace their role and help us flourish.”

In the portion of the ACC schedule that got played, Notre Dame looked to be as good as anyone in the conference, going 3-2 with only a pair of 4-3 losses to Syracuse and NC State. A highlight of the NC State match was one of the best moments of Notre Dame’s season, as freshman Page Freeman and junior Cameron Corse scored a stunning doubles victory over NC State’s doubles team, ranked second in the country. Freeman and Corse went 4-0 in ACC play as doubles partners.

Big wins over Boston College and Louisville, sandwiched around a non-conference slaughter of Indiana, ended Notre Dame’s season on a high note. Overall, Notre Dame’s season was defined by their impressive composure and numerous tight matches, Silverio said.

“Having those 4-3 battles really defined us this season,” she said. 

She also discussed the importance of the team’s two graduating seniors, Zoe Spence and Bess Waldram. Waldram competed in doubles for the Irish, while Spence was one of their top singles players.

“Both of them continue to lead by example,” Silverio said. “Bess was more our vocal leader — she was very supportive on and off the court. [Bess] did a great job leading by example, coming to practice every day and working consistently. The work ethic both our seniors had was great for our underclassmen and for our entire program.”  

Spence and Waldram leave the Irish program trending upwards and in the capable hands of rising seniors Ally Bojczuk, who partnered with Waldram in several doubles matches, and Corse, who, in her partnership with Freeman, was one of the team’s top singles players alongside Spence.

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