Jan. 22, 2010
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a 10-part series on UND.com, spotlighting the 2010 Notre Dame spring sports season with both written and video previews. Today, we take a look at the Fighting Irish women’s tennis team, which has been among the nation’s elite for the past decade, and broke new ground last season with the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA national semifinals.
Coming off one of the best seasons in program history, head coach Jay Louderback and the 2009-10 Notre Dame women’s tennis team are looking to continue their tradition of success and find their place on the national stage. The Irish begin that quest Saturday at Iowa. Match time is set for 11 a.m.
After finishing the 2009 season with a 28-5 record, a No. 5 ranking in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll and an appearance in the NCAA Championship semifinals, the Irish are looking to repeat that success as five of the top six players from last year’s squad return in 2009-10.
Leading the Irish this season is a trio of seniors who have won two BIG EAST Championships and made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament during their careers at Notre Dame. Cosmina Ciobanu was a solid force in the Irish lineup a year ago, compiling a 21-5 singles dual record and a 22-8 doubles mark. The Brea, Calif., native also earned all-BIG EAST honors and received the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete Award.
“Cosmina has won a lot of matches for us, and we’re hoping she’ll continue to play well in both singles and doubles,” Louderback said. “We’re looking for her to contribute to our lineup in a big way this season.”
Senior Kali Krisik was an all-BIG EAST honoree last season after going 19-9 in singles dual action and 21-8 in doubles. The Arkansas City, Kan., product leads the Irish squad with 101 singles wins and 107 doubles victories in her career.
All-BIG EAST senior Cosmina Ciobanu posted more than 20 wins in both singles and doubles play last season.
“We’re expecting a lot of leadership from Kali,” Louderback said. “She has an opportunity to do some really great things this year. She’ll have to step up and play No. 1 doubles, and we’re looking to her to play well and contribute to the middle of our lineup.”
Senior Colleen Rielley has become consistent competitor in the Irish doubles lineup. She teamed with sophomore Shannon Mathews last season for a 25-8 dual record and finished the season on an 11-match win streak. The duo was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team after compiling a 5-0 record at the national event.
“Colleen did an unbelievable job in doubles last year, and we’re hoping she’ll continue that this season,” Louderback said. “Whoever she teams with will do well. She’ll also have a chance to play singles this season, and we hope she’ll be able to contribute there, as well.”
Two juniors return for the Irish in 2009-10 with hopes of becoming major players in the Notre Dame lineup. Kristen Rafael had a strong presence in the Irish lineup last season with a 17-11 singles dual mark and closed out the season riding a two-match win streak.
“Kristen had a great spring for us and a strong showing at the NCAA Tournament,” Louderback said. “We’re hoping she’ll carry that success over to this year. Her doubles have also improved, and she’ll have a chance to compete there for us, too.”
“Denise will provide a lot of depth for us,” Louderback said. “She’s done really well in doubles. She’s ready to play singles or doubles anytime.”
A talented sophomore duo is ready to take the Irish back to the top after incredible freshman seasons.
Kristy Frilling made a major impact with the Irish squad and put together one of the best freshman seasons in program history. The 2009 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year and ITA National Player to Watch, Frilling finished the dual season with a 21-9 singles record and a 26-4 mark in doubles play. The Sidney, Ohio native advanced to the second rounds of both the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships and was ranked in the doubles top three all season.
“Kristy is one of the top players in the country, and this season she’ll have the chance to step up and play No. 1 singles,” Louderback said. “We’re also looking for her to team up with Kali at No. 1 doubles and be one of the better doubles teams in the nation.”
Sophomore Shannon Mathews was a big reason for Notre Dame’s success last season, going 27-3 in singles play and teaming with Colleen Rielley to earn NCAA All-Tournament Team honors in doubles after going 5-0 in NCAA postseason play.
Mathews was also a major player in the Irish lineup last season, finishing her freshman campaign with a 27-3 dual singles record and a 25-8 mark in doubles play. After opening the season with 16 straight dual victories, the Birmingham, Mich., product earned all-BIG EAST honors. Mathews and doubles partner Rielley ended the season on an 11-match win streak, including a 5-0 mark in NCAA action that garnered NCAA All-Tournament Team recognition.
“Shannon had a great season last year, and we’re looking for her to contribute and play well for us at the top of lineup,” Louderback said. “She has a great all-around game with a lot of power, and we’re expecting good things from her this year.”
Making her Irish debut this season is freshman Chrissie McGaffigan. The multi-sport standout from Davenport, Iowa was the top-ranked tennis recruit in her home state and was rated 32nd nationally by tennisrecruiting.net.
“Chrissie’s going to have a chance to make a big impact as a freshman,” Louderback said. “She’s great in both singles and doubles and competes really well. She could really play anywhere in our lineup.”
The Irish will face a challenging schedule in 2010 that will prepare them for another run at a national title.
“Our schedule is tough this year, but the key for us to succeed is to do well early,” Louderback said. “We have some tough matches early in the season, and we’ll need to do well in those to compete during the rest of the season.”
The Irish open their season at Iowa and Wisconsin, before hosting North Carolina, DePaul and Boise State as part of the ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 30-31. The winner of both their matches that weekend will advance as one of 15 teams to the ITA National Team Indoor Feb. 12-15 in Madison, Wis.
The Irish return to the Eck Tennis Pavilion for a six-match home stand Feb. 20 through March 5 that includes meetings with Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Indiana. Following seven matches on the road, including two against William & Mary and Duke in Puerto Rico, the Irish close out the regular season with South Florida, DePaul and Marquette at home.
For the first time in school history, Notre Dame will host the BIG EAST Championships April 22-25.
“We’re really excited to be hosting the BIG EAST Championship this year,” Louderback said. “The BIG EAST is going to be the most competitive it’s ever been.”
The NCAA First and Second Rounds will be held at various school sites May 14-15, and the NCAA Championships get underway May 20-31 in Athens, Ga.
With a strong group of players and a competitive schedule, the 2009-10 Notre Dame women’s tennis team looks to continue is tradition of success and has high hopes for a national title run.
— ND —