Jan. 22, 2018
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team will embark on its 33rd Division I season this week, and a talented Irish squad will look to build upon a strong 2017 campaign.
After finishing the 2017 dual season with an 18-10 record (7-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), the Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship and ended the season ranked No. 29 in the Oracle/ITA Division I Collegiate Rankings. It was the best finish by ranking for the Irish since the 2014 team finished with a No. 19 ranking.
The 2018 Irish will look to build upon last season with a mix of experience and talented youth. Four singles starters return from 2017, as do three regular doubles players. The combination is an exciting one for head coach Jay Louderback.
“We really have a great mix of youth and experience,” Louderback said. “(Seniors) Brooke Broda and Allie Miller have been really stable for us and give us a lot of really good experience, but I think they’ve been energized by the freshmen. I feel like they all just really enjoy playing, and through the long season I think that’s something that’s really going to help us.”
The Irish return four regulars from last year’s singles lineup. Seniors Brooke Broda and Allison Miller, junior Rachel Chong and sophomore Zoe Spence each experienced success in 2017 and went a collective 24-9 during the fall tournament slate.
Broda is set to step into the No. 1 singles spot after spending the majority of last season at No. 2, while Miller is poised to move into that position. Louderback also expects to see contributions from his three blue-chip freshmen — Ally Bojczuk, Caroline Dunleavy and Cameron Corse— in addition to Chong and Spence in the lineup.
Louderback is pleased with the strength of the doubles lineup ability to play with different partnership combinations should the need arise. Broda and Miller boast experience as a pair after playing at No. 3 doubles in 2016 and No. 2 in 2017. Spence and Corse partnered up for the bulk of the fall, as did Bojczuk and Chong. Louderback is also hopeful in sophomore Bess Waldram’s return to the doubles lineup after battling injury as a freshman.
“We feel really good (about our doubles teams),” Louderback said. “Brooke and Allie have moved up one position every year and they’ve done really well wherever they’ve played. They’re really experienced and they really enjoy playing together and they’ll be really solid. We’ve also got a lot of combinations we can go with at No. 2 and 3 and we feel good about all of them. We want to get them where they’re easily interchangeable because you never never know about illness and injuries, so we want to have them so they feel like they can play with different partners.”
Meet the Freshmen
The Irish welcomed the No. 8 freshman class in the fall, and have already seen success from the group during the tournament schedule. Ally Bojczuk (7-1), Caroline Dunleavy (6-4) and Cameron Corse (7-2) each boast blue-chip credentials and had strong fall campaigns.
“All of our freshmen have come in and really elevated the level of practice,” Louderback said. “They’ve really helped raise the level of everybody.”
Louderback is looking forward to a balanced 2018 schedule, where travel and competition level are more evenly spread throughout the course of the season. The Irish will only travel on back-to-back weekends once this season (March 23-25 at Wake Forest and Duke and March 30-April 1 at Georgia Tech and Clemson), and the load will be lightened by visiting schools from the same region on each trip.
And where the 2017 schedule was back-loaded with the top teams from the ACC, the 2018 slate features a more even mix of elite competition on both the front and back ends of the schedule.
“Last year, the last eight dual matches we had were against the top eight teams in the ACC,” Louderback said. “This year, it’s much more spread out and we play some of the better teams early. It’s going to make it much easier to take a loss or two.
“The ACC is brutal and we could have the top conference in the country again this year. We could get 10 or 11 teams in the NCAA tournament, so it’s a tough schedule ... but I think it’s a good schedule for us to be able to do well.”
The Irish will open the season at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday against Western Michigan at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish are 17-4 all time against the Broncos, including 13-0 under Louderback.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men's tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master's degree from Georgetown University in 2013.