Quinn Gleason, foreground, and Monica Robinson

An Unlikely Duo

May 7, 2015

By Jennifer Prosser ’18

Monica Robinson and Quinn Gleason make an unlikely pair.

Robinson, a 5-4 sophomore from Southern California specializes in lobbing the ball and setting up angles. Gleason, her 5-9 junior partner from New York, is aggressive at the net with a powerful finishing shot.

Together, the two lead the University of Notre Dame’s women’s tennis team at the No. 1 doubles spot. Learning how to play off of each other’s strengths has been key to their successful season; with 14-5 record they rank No. 29 among NCAA doubles pairs.

“They make a good pair because their game styles aren’t the same,” head coach Jay Louderback says. “Monica is a grinder — she doesn’t make very many errors. Quinn attacks the net and finishes points well. But they both have a lot of energy, even more so when they play together in doubles than in singles. They fire each other up.”

Energy is the greatest common denominator between Robinson and Gleason. While they’ve heard comments about their juxtaposed differences in personalities, to them those are almost insignificant.

“There was one article that called Monica the more reserved one, which is funny because that’s kind of a comment on how crazy I get on the court,” Gleason says. “I wouldn’t consider her reserved at all. I would definitely say we’re more similar than we are different.

“We both are really intense and we both fight for every point. We definitely try our best, so there’s a great energy between us, which I think helps us in a lot of matches. We’re both super competitive, which works to our advantage, especially in a game like tennis where there can be a turning point at any point in the match. We’re both really focused and try to stay on top of things. We just try to take care of business as quickly as we possibly can.”

The pair has been taking care of business with their high-tempo play all season long. When the team played No. 1 North Carolina in March, Gleason and Robinson secured an impressive win against a then-12th-ranked (current No. 16) Tar Heels team of Jamie Loeb and Caroline Price. Although Notre Dame ultimately fell 5-2, the match has been a kind of springboard since. For Gleason and Robinson, the match was indicative of their future, too.

“UNC has definitely been our biggest win so far,” Gleason says. “We came out with so much energy. They’re a great team, and we just kind of took over control. After we beat them, I think I realized that we could really do well together. Before that, I knew that we had a lot of potential, but I think that was the match where I really realized that we could play well together.”

After graduating three seniors that made up a substantial part of the doubles lineup in the 2013-14 season, pairings for this season were ambiguous. With input from Gleason’s doubles partner last year, graduate Britney Sanders, Louderback moved Robinson up from the two slot to play with Gleason at the top.

“She has experience at No. 1, and it’s my first time at No. 1, so it’s been cool bringing the differences to the table,” Robinson says. “Quinn is older, and I know she’s had more experience playing on the court. It’s kind of neat how every year, depending on who you’re playing with, you start to adapt to their style and you learn each other’s movements on the court.”

Although Gleason is the older of the two, she has learned from her younger counterpart, as well.

“Monica is always positive on the court,” Gleason says. “She stays in the moment really well, which is something I need to work on. Playing with her has helped me with that.”

For Gleason, the extra year of experience has given her more confidence in her game. The prospect of another year together gives Gleason high hopes looking forward.

“I’m really excited that we found this partnership this year,” Gleason says. “Next year we will have a whole other year together. I only got to play with Britney one year, and you always think, `What if we had one more year?’ That’s why I’m so excited that we found each other at a good time.”

Although the doubles pairing is new to this season, the relationship goes back to before Robinson even committed to Notre Dame. On her official visit during high school, Gleason was her host. In her “bowling-alley sized” dorm room, the two immediately bonded.

“Quinn was a big influence in my decision to come here,” Robinson says. “She was the one who introduced me to Notre Dame and showed me around. We had so much fun together, so it’s funny to be playing doubles with her now.

“I knew it was a great school academically and athletically. I’d say the spirituality on campus was really attractive to me, as well. But it was Quinn and the girls, ultimately, that brought me here. They were all so nice and so welcoming.

“I think that’s a big thing, because at the end of the day that’s what brings the team together. You need to trust each other; you need to be friends. That’s what you’re going to battle for on the court because you know that you’re battling for your teammates and friends and family.”

At times the battles have been tough but, at 14-10, the Irish are looking at another successful regular season with potential for a deep tournament run. For Gleason and Robinson especially, expectations set by themselves, as well as others, are high. That journey will begin on Saturday when the Irish take on No. 17 TCU in the first round of the NCAA Championship at Texas A&M and continue when the pair compete at the NCAA Doubles Championship May 20-25 in Waco, Texas.

Even though it will be Robinson’s first trip to the NCAA Championships, with Gleason’s experience and the winning mentality that they share, she feels prepared for the adventure ahead.

“We want to try to keep things in perspective and take one match at a time, but I think ultimately our goal is to win the NCAAs and be All-Americans as a doubles team,” Robinson says. “Then as a team, of course, we also want to do really well and make an impact in that draw. I think we have a lot of potential as a team. There’s a lot of good things ahead of us.”