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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Irish head to Florida over break

While most students will be on spring break, the Irish have yet another busy week ahead of them; No. 25 Notre Dame heads to Florida for a pair of contests Tuesday before returning for two home matches March 13 and March 15.

While in Florida, the Irish (7-4, 3-1 ACC) will start off by meeting East Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast, clashing with the Pirates (8-2) in Tampa on Tuesday morning before heading to Fort Myers for their matchup with the Eagles (2-8) in the evening.

Although Notre Dame will get a short break from ACC play, Irish head coach Jay Louderback said this spring break trip to Florida is important for his squad.

Sophomore Mary Closs returns a shot during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to No. 8 Stanford at Eck Tennis Pavilion on Feb. 6.
Sophomore Mary Closs returns a shot during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to No. 8 Stanford at Eck Tennis Pavilion on Feb. 6.

“The big thing for us is getting outdoors,” Louderback said. “We’ll get five days of practice and matches outside which is something we need because we’ll start transitioning to more outdoor matches after spring break. We have those two matches against North Carolina and Boston College here indoors, but then we go to Florida State and Georgia Tech the weekend after for two outdoor conference matches. So this trip to Florida next week will be good for us.”

After a week of tennis and sunshine in Florida, the Irish will return to campus for a Friday date with potentially their toughest opponent of the entire season, North Carolina.

The No. 1 Tar Heels (13-0, 3-0) have a stacked roster on both the singles and doubles sides. With six singles players ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), including No. 8 sophomore Jamie Loeb, No. 15 senior Caroline Price and No. 19 sophomore Hayley Carter, North Carolina should provide the Irish their toughest challenge thus far. Even the doubles point will be difficult to come by, as the Tar Heels boast tandems of No. 11 Loeb and Price, No. 20 juniors Ashley Dai and Kate Vialle and No. 22 Carter and junior Whitney Kay.

Notre Dame is keeping challenge in perspective by treating the matchup as just another in a long list of tough ACC opponents.

“It’ll be a good test for us,” Louderback said. “It’ll be a lot like the other tough ACC matchups. We just played against [No. 5] Virginia with chances to win. We took the doubles point against [Virginia], and we had some close matches in singles even though we lost. North Carolina’s much of the same. We’re excited to have a chance to play such a quality opponent, as they’re the top team in the country right now. We’ve played quite a few matches where we were the favorite. It’s different against better teams. Against Virginia we played really loose, and I like to see that from this team.”

After their matchup with North Carolina, the Irish must then turn their attention to a familiar opponent in Boston College.

The No. 45 Eagles (7-4, 1-0) will be looking for revenge after losing twice to the Irish last spring, once in a regular-season match in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and once in Cary, North Carolina, at the ACC championships.

One Boston College player cracks the ITA rankings, with senior Jessica Wacnik slotting in at 71st.

The Irish are set to take on East Carolina on Tuesday at 9 a.m. and Florida Gulf Coast at 5 p.m. later that day. They will then host North Carolina and Boston College on Friday and Sunday respectively, with the first serve at 1 p.m. both days.