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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

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Irish tennis heads to Wisconsin for standalone road tilt

In its only road tilt of February, Notre Dame women’s tennis faces the 3-2 Badgers

Of the eight February matches for Notre Dame women’s tennis, all but one are at home. The lone road trip falls this weekend, as the 5-1 Irish meet No. 25 Wisconsin on Sunday. Overall, Notre Dame leads the all-time series against the Badgers 19-8. Most recently, Wisconsin picked up a 5-2 victory in South Bend on Feb. 19 of last year.

Irish seek fourth straight win after impressive weekend

Just under two weeks ago, Notre Dame encountered a key crossroads on a Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The Irish had just fallen 4-0 to then-No. 10 Ohio State, the only other ranked opponent they have faced this year. Their ensuing opponent, Kansas, took them for a wild ride in a 3-hour, 26-minute match. But Notre Dame prevailed, winning 4-3 and leaving the weekend with a split.

A week later, the Irish authored clean sweeps of Ball State and Chicago State at home. Never losing a set, Notre Dame extended its momentum from the Kansas win. Junio Nibi Ghosh and sophomore Akari Matsuno were especially effective, going a combined 4-0 in singles and doubles action. For Ghosh, the effort extended her strong start in singles to 5-0. Meanwhile, Matsuno took full advantage of the reset after finishing January on an 0-4 skid in singles and doubles play.

The Wisconsin tilt presents Notre Dame with its first standalone road match of the season. It’ll help the Irish prepare for ACC play, which will begin before they take their next trip to NC State on March 1.

Badgers returning home after challenging start

Last weekend, Wisconsin wrapped up a season-opening, five-game road swing. The Badgers may have shown some exhaustion in Saturday’s 7-0 loss to No. 6 Texas, a result that dropped them to 3-2 on the young campaign. Before the tough match in Austin, the Badgers defeated James Madison and Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Illinois, before splitting with then-No. 20 Georgia Tech and Texas Tech at ITA Kickoff Weekend. 

A season ago, the Badgers reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, going 20-7 overall and 8-3 in the Big Ten. They have returned three foreign stars to remain in the national picture. Xinyu Cai, a fifth-year player from China, went 17-2 in singles play last season, breaking a program single-season record for win percentage. Her doubles combination with Russian senior Alina Mukhortova, which went 16-3 last season, ranks inside the top-50 nationally. Finally, fellow Russian Maria Sholokhova registers as Wisconsin’s top-ranked singles player. As a freshman in 2023, she went 14-8 from the No. 2 spot, earning an All-Big Ten team honor.

Before facing the Irish, Wisconsin will complete its home opener Friday against in-state rival Marquette. The Badgers’ upcoming schedule certainly welcomes them to empty the tank this weekend, as only a Feb. 18 trip to UCF awaits Wisconsin for the remainder of the month.

Notre Dame’s match with Wisconsin will commence at 1 p.m. Sunday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.