Oct. 9, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. --- Tennis may be a spring sport, but the Notre Dame women’s team is about to enter what head coach Jay Louderback calls “the biggest tournament of the fall.”
The Irish are heading north to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the second time this fall to compete in the six-day ITA Midwest Regional Championships (Oct. 10-15) at the Varsity Tennis Center. The winners of the singles and doubles draws will each receive berths to the ITA National Indoor Championships at the University of Virginia in February.
“We’d like to win the singles or doubles,” Louderback says. “We definitely have people who are capable of doing it—multiple in singles and in doubles, too. It would help because we would get someone in the National Indoor Championships, which would help with rankings. That really helps for the individual NCAA Championships at the end of the year. It would just be good exposure for our kids if we got someone in.”
So why does Louderback refer to this tournament as the most important one of the fall?
“It’s because it’s all the tough teams in the region,” he explains. “This tournament gives us an idea of where we are and where we stand with two top-15 teams, Michigan and Northwestern. It’s some of the top teams around and that gives our kids good matches.”
The singles tournament is composed of a qualifying draw of 64 players on Thursday and Friday. The eight players who make it through join the main draw of 48 players starting on Saturday and competing through until the singles championship on Monday, Oct. 15. There is a separate doubles draw that starts on Friday with the championship being played on Sunday.
Notre Dame has seven singles players competing along with four doubles teams. Junior Molly O’Koniewski, sophomore Julie Vrabel and freshman Jane Fennelly will start play tomorrow in the qualifying round. Seniors Britney Sanders and Jenny Kellner and freshmen Mary Closs and Monica Robinson will begin in the main draw on Saturday. Senior Julie Sabacinski will be joining Closs in the doubles draw as well.
Louderback suggests that this tournament is also a great learning opportunity for the team’s three newcomers and for the four Irish doubles teams (Closs/Sabacinski, Kellner/Robinson, Fennelly/Vrabel and Sanders/O’Koniewski).
“We have three freshmen, and two of them have not played much indoor tennis because they’re both from California,” he says. “For the freshmen, I think it’s a great opportunity to get used to playing indoors. The ball comes much quicker, you’re not fighting the elements—it’s just a bigger game inside. So it will be good for those three to get used to that.
“We also have all new doubles teams this year, so every match they play is going to help them get better for the spring. They’re going to get more experience playing together.”
What’s more, in order to get every member of the women’s team some playing time this weekend, assistant coach Catrina Thompson will be traveling to Kalamazoo, Mich., with junior Katherine White and sophomores Darby Mountford and Alaina Roberts for the Bronco Invitational at Western Michigan University.
It will be a very busy weekend for the Irish. Things kick off tomorrow at 9 a.m. when O’Koniewski takes the court for her first round match in the qualifying draw of the ITA Midwest Regional Championships. Check in at UND.com for updates on Notre Dame play.
--Lauren Chval, Media Relations Assistant