Jan. 20, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team kicks its season off this weekend with a three-match homestand at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish square off with fellow BIG EAST team Cincinnati on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (ET) before welcoming in Missouri and IPFW for a doubleheader on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., respectively.
The Irish welcome back seven members of their 2010-11 team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including senior co-captains Kristy Frilling (Sidney, Ohio) and Shannon Mathews (Birmingham, Mich.), who look to anchor the top of both the singles and doubles lineups. Aside from those two, junior Chrissie McGaffigan (Davenport, Iowa) and sophomores Jennifer Kellner (Smithtown, N.Y.), JoHanna Manningham (Mishawaka, Ind.), Julie Sabacinski (Plantation, Fla.) and Britney Sanders (Ontario, Calif.) also played in at least one dual match last season. Freshman Katherine White (Columbus, Ga.) rounds out what should be a very deep and talented roster.
Frilling and Mathews lead the way in the rankings for the Irish, entering the year as the fifth-best doubles tandem in the nation, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) preseason polls. Sanders and White also rank as the 25th-best duo in the country.
While having played IPFW as recently as two years ago, it has been nearly 10 years since the Irish and Missouri tangled and 27 years since the Irish last faced off with Cincinnati. Here is a look at each of the matchups this weekend:
Cincinnati Bearcats - BIG EAST - Saturday, 1:00 p.m. (ET)2011-12 Record: 0-02011-12 Ranking: Unranked
Key Returnees: The Bearcats return their No. 2 singles player from a year ago in Jasmine Lee, who posted 14 victories at the position, including seven of those in conference matches. Ashleigh Witte, who split time at No. 3 and 4, also returns looking to build off a freshman campaign that saw her record 14 wins between the two courts.
Key Losses: Ksenia Slynko, the teams No. 1 singles player for the majority of the 2011 campaign, leaves a hole at the top of the Bearcats lineup heading into their dual season opener against the Irish.
History of Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati: This will mark only the second time the two teams have met despite both being members of the BIG EAST Conference. In the schools lone matchup heading into Saturday, the Irish emerged victorious in a home contest, 6-1, on Oct. 4, 1985.
Missouri Tigers - BIG 12 - Sunday, 11:00 a.m. (ET)2011-12 Record: 0-02011-12 Ranking: Unranked
Key Returnees: Senior Jamie Mera, junior Maria Christiansen and sophomore Rachel Stuhlmann anchor the Tigers’ attack having competed in a combined 69 dual matches last season. The trio also combined to secure a total of 50 match victories over the season between fall tournament play and the dual slate.
Key Losses: The top of Missouri’s lineup lost two big pieces in Kaitlyn Ritchie and Mallory Weber. The duo combined for 24 victories last season while holding down the top of the Tigers’ singles lineup. Missouri also has to replace Marlen Hacke who won nine matches last season and Mahdi Besovic, who won five.
History of Notre Dame vs. Missouri: The Irish and Tigers have also only met one time in the past, crossing paths in the 2003 NCAA Tournament. The matchup, which took place in Nashville, Tenn., saw the 21st-ranked Irish emerge victorious over 38th-ranked Missouri, 4-1.
IPFW Mastadons - Summit League - Sunday, 5:00 p.m. (ET)2011-12 Record: 0-02011-12 Ranking: Unranked
Key Returnees: Alex Forsyth looks to take the reigns as the team leader heading into 2011-12. The senior has compiled 60 wins over her first three seasons with the Mastadons, being named to the Summit League all-league team each of her first three seasons.
Key Losses: The Mastadons look to replace a three-member senior class made up of Ingrid Ballus, Yuka Kobayashi and Amy Recht. Recht led the way for the group, earning Summit League Player of the Year honors during each of her four years at IPFW. She became the first athlete in league history to accomplish that feat.
History of Notre Dame vs. IPFW: These two teams have met a total of six times coming into this season with the Irish holding a 5-0-1 record. The last time the two teams squared off Notre Dame took down the Mastadons in a first round NCAA tilt, 4-0, at the Courtney Tennis Center.
All three matches this weekend can be followed at UND.com through the live stats link on the women’s tennis schedule page. Be sure to check back with UND.com both days for a complete recap of the matches.