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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

ND Women's Tennis: Irish view Buck as their cornerstone

Freshman Brook Buck is quickly becoming a cornerstone on the No. 21 Notre Dame team.

And with good reason.

"She hits the ball so hard. She's fearless," sophomore Christian Thompson said. "If you hit any ball down the center of the court, she'll hit it back for a winner."

No. 16 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest was on the receiving side of Buck's volleys Sunday. Overwhelmed by Buck's potent serve, Coetzee fell 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles.

Coetzee had been a 2004 NCAA Singles Championship qualifier last year and has been ranked as high as No. 10 during her career. Last season, Coetzee, who hails from South Africa, was the runner-up in last fall's ITA Southeast Championships.

Surrendering just a pair of games to Coetzee on Sunday, Buck improved her record to 4-1 this season against ranked opponents. Ranked No. 85 in the nation, Buck has already defeated No. 37 Dora Vastag of Indiana, No. 93 Hala Sufi of Purdue and No. 95 Elizabeth Exon of Michigan. Her only loss this season came against No. 1 Christelle Grier of Northwestern.

With each meet, Buck continues to impress both her coach and teammates as an equally strong player in doubles as in singles.

Against Wake Forest on Sunday, Buck and junior Lauren Connelly also clinched the doubles point for the Irish with an 8-1 victory at No. 2 over Katie Martzolf and Danielle Schwartz. Coach Jay Louderback said the duo's success this season and impressive record of 14-4 came as no surprise.

"They are both very hard workers in practice," Louderback said. "Brook is starting to come to the net more and she's becoming an aggressive player, which is especially important at the college level."

Louderback added Buck's transition from the national level to the college level seems to have been a smooth one.

Buck, who hails from Yukon, Okla., conditioned herself for the high level of play while in high school. At one point in her high school career, Buck was No. 1 in the 16-and-under United States Tennis Association rankings.

Additionally, Buck won three national doubles titles, collecting wins in the Winter National Championships, the Spring Supernational Championships and the Supernational Hardcourt Championships. By her junior year, Buck also had three state championship titles to her name at No. 1 singles in class 3A.

Despite the tough competition she has faced throughout her career, Buck admits she is still intimidated taking on ranked players.

But Buck views this sense of apprehension as an advantage.

"It's always good to be a little intimidated going into a match," Buck said. "It makes everyone excited to play and when you upset a ranked team, it means a lot more to the team."

Buck added she anticipates the challenges other ranked opponents will bring this season. Based on what he has seen from Buck, Louderback believes she will weather those challenges with the same poise she has displayed all season.

"She's proven that she can play with almost anyone," Louderback said. "We're looking forward to seeing what she can do."