May 15, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. — The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team’s 2014 spring season came to an end this afternoon. The Irish fell 4-2 to No. 2 Alabama in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship.
Bad weather dictated that the match move inside to the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Facility, where the Irish and the Tide kicked off doubles at 9 a.m. Alabama quickly took the doubles point from the Irish at Nos. 2 and 3, where freshman Mary Closs and junior Molly O’Koniewski fell 8-3 and seniors Jennifer Kellner and Julie Sabacinski dropped their match, 8-4. All three doubles teams for the Tide are nationally ranked.
“We started off 1-0 after doubles, and with a team that good, it’s just hard to come back. We were always playing from behind,” explained head coach Jay Louderback.
With only four courts in the indoor facility, the fifth and sixth singles matches had to wait until two of the first four matches finished before they could get on the court.
Alabama claimed two more points in singles before Notre Dame had a chance to fight back. Freshman Monica Robinson fell 6-4, 6-3 to Maya Jansen at No. 4, and sophomore Quinn Gleason lost to Danielle Spielmann, 7-6(6), 6-2 at No. 2.
With the Tide up 3-0, the Irish would have to win the remaining four matches on the court in order to clinch the match–a hole that proved just too deep for Notre Dame to climb out of despite some gritty battling.
Senior Britney Sanders notched the first point for the Irish. Despite losing her first set 1-6, Sanders battled back against Mary Anne Daines to win the No. 1 singles match, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Sanders hit a forehand winner against Daines to take her match point.
One court over, another senior was fighting back. Kellner dropped her first set to Eric Routliffe, 3-6, but she too won her match in three sets, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Her victory put Notre Dame back on track, with Alabama leading 3-2.
Class and sophomore Julie Vrabel had to go on after Robinson and Gleason finished, making the No. 5 and No. 6 matches the last ones on the court by a long shot. Closs went up early against Emily Zabor, winning her first set 6-3, but then fell behind to lose the second. Before they could get to a third set, Luicelena Perez clinched the match for Alabama against Vrabel, winning it 6-1, 6-4.
“When you play on four courts, it’s hard to have it come down to two people,” Louderback added. “It’s a whole match after everyone else. That’s tough. That’s a lot of pressure. Our kids fought like we have all year. We’re a bunch of fighters and we stayed in it.”
Notre Dame ended its season 18-10, making it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. Despite the loss, Louderback said that he was glad to see Sanders and Kellner go out with wins during the last team match of their careers.
“The seniors played unbelievable,” he said. “Our two singles seniors lost first sets and then came back and won. Those two were unbelievable. Both of them were under pressure. I was glad to see the two of them going out with wins.”
Sanders and Gleason will play together in the Doubles NCAA Championship next week, and Gleason will also compete in the Singles Championship.
Doubles (Order of finish: 3,2)
1. #4 Maya Jansen/Erin Routliffe (UA) vs. #12 Britney Sanders/Quinn Gleason (ND), 5-4, unf.
2. #39 Mary Anne Daines/Danielle Spielmann (UA) def. Jennifer Kellner/Julie Sabacinski (ND), 8-4
3. #71 Luicelena Perez/Emily Zabor (UA) def. Mary Closs/Molly O’Koniewski (ND), 8-3
Singles (Order of finish: 4,2,1,3,6)
1. Britney Sanders (ND) def. #65 Mary Anne Daines (UA), 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
2. #93 Danielle Spielmann (UA) def. #39 Quinn Gleason (ND), 7-6(6), 6-2
3. Jennifer Kellner (ND) def. #77 Erin Routliffe (UA), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
4. #110 Maya Jansen (UA) def. Monica Robinson (ND), 6-4, 6-3
5. Emily Zabor (UA) vs. Mary Closs (ND), 3-6, 6-4, unf.
6. #109 Luicelena Perez (UA) def. Julie Vrabel (ND), 6-1, 6-4
–Lauren Chval, Media Relations Assistant