Feb. 12, 2016
By Matthew D’Alonzo ’19 & Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Were it not for University of Notre Dame women’s tennis junior Mary Closs’ proximity to teammate Julie Vrabel during Friday’s match between the No. 33 Irish and Atlantic Coast Conference foe Pittsburgh, things might have gone very differently.
Both playing in tight matches, Closs and Vrabel each had the opportunity to deliver the deciding point for the Irish as the last remaining singles matches in a contest Notre Dame led 3-2. Just two courts down, Vrabel, who had already fought her way into a third set, provided exactly the motivation Closs needed to clinch a tiebreaker in the second set and shut the door on an Irish victory in the third.
Closs shut down the Panthers’ Callie Frey in a dominating third set, breezing to a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0 victory to give the Irish a 4-3 win, even after Vrabel’s loss tied the team score at 3-all.
“Julie getting into the third set really help motivate me to keep going in the second because I was tight back and forth with the tiebreaker going,” Closs said. “It helped a lot that she was still in it, too. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ The team was really supportive, cheering me on and overall everyone worked really hard today and I think it just pays off in the end.”
The Irish (4-2, 1-0 ACC) needed wins everywhere they could get them after close matches on all three doubles courts resulted in the Panthers taking an early 1-0 lead. On Court 3, Closs and Vrabel took out Frey and Carina Ma with a 6-3 decision. On Court 1, however, the 15th-ranked doubles team of senior Quinn Gleason and junior Monica Robinson fell after an extremely close match, with Lolade Ogungbesan and Amber Washington taking a 6-4 decision. In the last match of doubles competition, sophomore Allison Miller and junior Jane Fennelly fell to Audrey Ann Blakely and Gabriela Rezende, 6-4.
Notre Dame started strong in doubles. Miller easily defeated Ma on Court 3 with a 6-0, 6-1 decision, earning Notre Dame their first singles point of the match. This was followed immediately by Fennelly’s win on Court 5, an identical 6-0, 6-1 decision over Rezende gave Notre Dame its second singles point.
The Panthers (3-1, 0-1 ACC) pulled even again with a win on Court 2, as Robinson fell to Blakely in a 6-2, 6-4 decision.
Tied 2-2 in points, all eyes went to the final three singles competitions of the day, which would decide the outcome of the match. The 44th-ranked Gleason picked up a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ogungbesan after falling behind 2-4 in the second set, giving the Irish a 3-2 lead, leaving Closs and Vrabel still playing.
Both Irish teammates dropped the first set, but found their footing in their respective seconds to force a final frame. Vrabel cruised past Washington 6-2 in the second set on Court 6, but wasn’t able to hold onto the momentum an ultimately fell 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
It was enough to spark Closs’ fire, as the junior rolled past Frey in the tiebreaker and into the third set. She barely lost a point in the third set en route to the shutout that broke Frey’s nine-match winning streak.
“In the first set we had a lot of deuce points and I knew I was right there with her within the games because it was a matter of a couple points here and there,” Closs said. “I really just wanted to stay aggressive, stay with it and play my game.”
Notre Dame women’s tennis returns to the court against No. 8 Michigan on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor.
No. 33 Notre Dame 4, Pittsburgh 3
1. No. 44 Quinn Gleason (ND) def. Lolade Ogungbesan (Pitt), 6-4, 6-4
2. Audrey Ann Blakely (ND) def. Monica Robinson (Pitt), 6-2, 6-4
3. Allison Miller (ND) def. Carina Ma (Pitt), 6-0, 6-1
4. Mary Closs (ND) def. Callie Frey (Pitt), 2-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0
5. Jane Fennelly (ND) def. Gabriela Rezende (Pitt), 6-0, 6-1
6. Amber Washington (Pitt) def. Julie Vrabel (ND), 6-4, 2-6, 6-1
1. Lolade Ogungsbesan / Amber Washington (Pitt) def. No. 15 Quinn Gleason / Monica Robinson (ND), 6-4
2. Audrey Ann Blakely / Gabriela Rezende (Pitt) def. Allison Miller/ Jane Fennelly (ND), 6-4
3. Mary Closs / Julie Vrabel (ND) def. Callie Frey /Carina Ma (Pitt), 6-3
Matthew D’Alonzo is a freshman student assistant for Fighting Irish Media, working with Athletics Communications Directors for Cross Country, Track and Field, Basketball, and Tennis. A Computer Engineering/PLS Major, D’Alonzo is from Mobile, Alabama.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant 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 women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.