Shannon Mathews clinched the Irish win with a 6-3, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles.

Irish Down Illinois In Season Opener, 5-2

Jan. 22, 2011

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The fourth-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team kicked off the season with an impressive 5-2 victory over 25th-ranked Illinois on Saturday at the Atkins Tennis Center.

The opening-match victory marks the seventh-straight year that the Irish have opened their season with a victory, dating back to a 4-3 loss at Michigan in 2003-04. The win also secures the seventh-consecutive win over the Fighting Illini, also going back to the ’03-04 season.

Jennifer Kellner (Smithtown, N.Y.) got the Irish on the board in singles action and gave the team an overall 2-0 lead in impressive fashion at No. 5 singles. The freshman showed little nerves in her first collegiate dual match, posting a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Misia Kedzierski.

Kristen Rafael (Grand Prairie, Texas), ranked 79th to open the season, began her season at the No. 3 position for the Irish. The Irish captain rebounded from an early hole to claim the third Irish point with a 6-4, 6-1 decision over Chelcie Abajian. Rafael trailed 4-3 midway through the first set but closed the match winning nine of the final 10 games.

Shannon Mathews (Birmingham, Mich.) was next to finish, clinching the match for the Irish with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against Breanne Smutko at No. 2 singles. The Irish junior, ranked 104th in the opening rankings, claimed her seventh career match-clinching point with the win.

Ninth-ranked Kristy Frilling (Sidney, Ohio) claimed the fifth Irish point at No. 1 singles, securing a win over 100th-ranked Rachael White, 6-4, 7-5. After claiming the first set, Frilling dropped the first three games of the second set before rebounding to win seven of the next nine games played.

Chrissie McGaffigan (Davenport, Iowa), ranked 78th to open the season, struggled to find her rhythm at No. 4 singles. The talented sophomore fell in straight sets to Amy Allin, 6-2, 6-2, giving the Fighting Illini their first point of the afternoon.

Julie Sabacinski (Plantation, Fla.) rounded out singles play for the Irish at the No. 6 court. The freshman trailed early in the match but fought back to take the opening set, 7-5, against Marisa Lambropoulos. Sabacinski then dropped the second set, 6-4, and with the match already determined the two squared off in a third-set tiebreaker, that Lambropoulos won 10-5.

In doubles action, Frilling and Mathews got the Irish off to a fast start, dispatching Illinois’ top tandem of White and Kedzierski, 8-1. Kellner and McGaffigan teamed at No. 2 doubles and clinched the point for the Irish with another lopsided decision, posting an 8-2 victory over Leigh Finnegan and Allison Falkin.

The Fighting Illini pairing of Abajian and Smutko ended doubles play with an 8-4 win over Rafael and Sabacinski.

The Irish return to action next Saturday (Jan. 29) when they play host to qualifying for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. They square off with Yale in first round play at 1 p.m., while Arkansas takes on Utah in the other matchup at 9 a.m. Both matches will take place at the Eck Tennis Pavilion with the consolation and championship matches taking place on Sunday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

#4 Notre Dame 5, #25 Illinois 2
Singles:1. #9 Kristy Frilling (ND) def. #100 Rachael White (ILL) 6-4, 7-52. #104 Shannon Mathews (ND) def. Breanne Smutko (ILL) 6-3, 6-23. #79 Kristen Rafael (ND) def. Chelcie Abajian (ILL) 6-4, 6-14. Amy Allin (ILL) def. #78 Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) 6-2, 6-25. #106 Jennifer Kellner (ND) def. Misia Kedzierski (ILL) 6-1, 6-16. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) def. Julie Sabacinski (ND) 5-7, 6-4, 10-5
Doubles:1. Kristy Frilling/Shannon Mathews (ND) def. Rachael White/Misia Kedzierski (ILL) 8-12. Jennifer Kellner/Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) def. Leigh Finnegan/Allison Falkin (ILL) 8-23. Chelcie Abajian/Breanne Smutko (ILL) def. Kristen Rafael/Julie Sabacinski (ND) 8-4
Match Notes:Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (5,3,2,1,4,6)Notre Dame (1-0); National ranking #4Illinois (0-1); National ranking #25