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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Irish set for rematch with Demon Deacons in first round of ACC championship

Fourteenth-seeded Notre Dame arrived in Cary, North Carolina, on Tuesday to prepare for the beginning of its potential postseason run against 11th-seeded Wake Forest on Wednesday in the first round of the ACC championship.

The Irish (11-14, 2-12 ACC) are coming off losses to ACC rivals in fourth-seeded Miami (FL) and fifth-seeded Florida State to end the regular season, pushing the Irish to 14th place in the conference and matching them against the Demon Deacons (17-12, 5-9 ACC).

Wake Forest faced Notre Dame on March 25 in what was a 6-1 victory for the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Irish head coach Jay Louderback said this game will be quite different from the previous meeting, however, specifically noting that Wake Forest has changed its singles lineup drastically since the last time the two teams squared off, prompting the Irish to prepare for entirely new match-ups.

“We played them earlier in the year, and all of the singles match-ups, it looks like they’re going to be all different from our first match, which is a little unusual,” Louderback said. “We play them twice and none of our [players] will play the same one. It’s good [since] we lost to them. I feel like some different matchups could be good. Doubles also is good, so we’re preparing [for singles] since each of [our players] are playing different players.”

Irish senior Brooke Broda attempts to hit a forehand return during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to North Carolina on April 6 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.
Irish senior Brooke Broda attempts to hit a forehand return during Notre Dame’s 6-1 loss to North Carolina on April 6 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

Louderback said he felt good about Notre Dame’s ability to match up with Wake Forest’s left-handed players, something the Demon Deacons usually take advantage of in their matches.

“We have two left-handed [players],” he said. “Lefties are usually tough to play against. When they serve to a righty, their best serve is going to be to the backhand. In the ad-court, they can stretch you out a lot wider with the left hand. If we want to get in a forehand-to-forehand rally with someone — a lot of our [players] forehands are very strong — it’s tougher to do. With a lefty, if their backhand is weak, that’s better for us. There’s just different factors when we need to play a left-handed player.”

Irish freshman Cameron Corse is still ruled out to compete this week, Louderback said. Nevertheless, she made the trip down to Cary Tennis Park to cheer on her teammates.

A lot of attention will be put on Irish seniors Brooke Broda and Allison Miller. As the leaders of the team, they will be setting the tone for the rest of the team during Wednesday’s match and throughout the ACC tournament. Although Broda will be returning next year as a graduate student, she and Miller celebrated Senior Day against Miami (FL) on Sunday. Louderback had a lot of praise for his two seniors, and he said he has been especially pleased with their performances in the final weeks of the regular season.

“Allison, the girl she played from Miami is ranked No. 3 in the country, and Allison lost to her but played pretty well. They had tight games, and Allison felt like she played well against her and played loose,” Louderback said. “A lot of times in seniors’ last home matches, they can play nervous, but [Miller] really didn’t. She played well and also did a good job in the doubles. I feel really good that she’s prepared and ready to play [Wednesday]. I don’t even think that [Wednesday potentially being her last match] is going through her head.

“ ... [Brooke Broda has] gone through being sick and some injuries, and she’s been able to — the last two or three weeks of the season, [she] started playing better for us. I feel like she had a tight match with Miami on Sunday, and I think she’s going to have another chance [Wednesday] against someone she hasn’t played before, which is good. I really feel like she’ll be ready to go [Wednesday] because she’s played better the last couple of two or three weeks.”

On the opposite side of the experience spectrum is the rising freshmen core that has played well this season. Louderback said he believes his young players will perform just as well as they have all year, despite the added pressure of the postseason.

“[The freshmen] are fine; by now they’re not freshmen,” he said. “We’ve been through many matches this year. They’re used to dual matches. Really, at this time of year, you don’t have any freshmen.”

The Irish and Demon Deacons will begin their ACC tournament matchup Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at Cary Tennis Park in Cary, North Carolina.