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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

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Irish to face Xavier in first NCAA Tournament round

Notre Dame enters Ann Arbor Regional with 17-9 record

Having wrapped up the season as the 30th-ranked squad in the country, Notre Dame women’s tennis will begin its NCAA Tournament run at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Irish will face Xavier in the four-team Ann Arbor Regional. Host program Michigan, the second-ranked team in the country, will face Chicago State opposite Notre Dame’s matchup.

The Irish started last year’s NCAA Tournament in the same place: Ann Arbor, Michigan. After a 4-0 defeat of Ball State in the first round, Notre Dame fell 4-1 to Michigan, ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time. The Irish enter this weekend’s competition looking to win two NCAA Tournament games for the first time since 2014, when they advanced to the Round of 16.

How they got here

Playing consistently from start to finish, Notre Dame marches into the national postseason with an overall record of 17-9. The Irish opened their season 8-2, losing only top top-25 opponents Ohio State and Wisconsin while defeating Iowa and Kansas.

Notre Dame then began ACC play with a difficult slate of opponents and struggled to find results early on. Starting conference action 1-3, the Irish fell to No. 6 Virginia, No. 10 NC State and No. 40 Wake Forest. But they bounced back in the middle of March, sweeping No. 68 Xavier — whom they face Saturday — and knocking off No. 38 Florida State. 

After losing back-to-back 4-3 matches against 20th ranked teams, the Irish entered April on another hot streak. They topped No. 56 Clemson, No. 49 Syracuse and No. 21 Duke during a four-game win streak before ending the season with a 5-2 loss to No. 3 North Carolina. In the ACC Tournament, Notre Dame defeated 10th-seeded Syracuse before Virginia swept it out of the bracket.

Julia Andreach, the 22nd-ranked singles player in the nation, leads the Irish into Ann Arbor. She has gone 19-1 this spring, earning a spot in the NCAA individual championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Her pairing with graduate student Page Freeman ranks 44th in the country and slots in as Notre Dame’s No. 1 doubles team.

In singles play, look for sophomore Bojanza Pozder to swing momentum in the No. 3 matchup. She enters the first round having gone 18-4 overall and 10-2 in ACC matches.

Xavier Musketeers

With a monopoly on Big East success, Xavier is headed to its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers have gone 19-5 this season, posting a 5-0 record in Big East play. They cruised to a Big East Championship as well, punching their ticket to the big dance.

All season, Imani Graham has handled No. 1 singles for Xavier, playing to a 14-5 record. Anna Roggenburk has been even better in No. 2 singles, going 19-5. Sofia Mazzucato (15-3) and Emily Flowers (15-3) have also been respectively solid in No. 5 and No. 6 singles.

In doubles play, Xavier has found strength in its No. 3 team. Flowers and Mazzucato own a record of 13-2 this season and have won eight consecutive matches.

Notre Dame defeated Xavier by a 4-0 score on March 10 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Michigan Wolverines

Ranked second in the nation, Michigan carries loads of talent and success with it. The Wolverines are 26-3 with an 11-0 mark in Big Ten play. They easily captured their conference championship, defeating No. 12 Ohio State by a 4-2 score this past Sunday. With an 11-3 record against top-25 opponents, Michigan has not lost since February 18.

The Wolverines enter their matchup against Chicago State with one of the nation’s best overall players. Kari Miller ranks third in the country as a singles player, and her combination with Jaedan Brown ranks eighth among doubles teams. Michigan wields three more ranked singles players — No. 27 Julia Fleigner, No. 58 Gala Mesochoritou and No. 124 Piper Charney.

Last year, Michigan reached the NCAA quarterfinals after eliminating Notre Dame in the second round.

Chicago State Cougars

The lowest-seeded team in the Ann Arbor Regional, Chicago State enters with an overall record of 16-12. After going 5-1 in conference play, the Cougars claimed the Horizon League Championship with a trio of 4-2 wins. They upset No. 2 seed Youngstown State and top-seeded Cleveland State along the way, entering Ann Arbor with a seven-game win streak.

The Cougars haven’t found much consistency in singles placement, but a few of their players have stood out in certain positions. Amina Taibi has locked down No. 4 singles, playing to a 15-7 record. Collectively, the Cougars have gone 19-7 in No. 6 singles, with Helin Alvarez going 7-0 in that spot. Chicago State’s top doubled team has struggled throughout the year, but its No. 2 pairing of Ethel Li and Sofiya Sedovich owns a 16-8 record.

Chicago State met Notre Dame on February 4 in South Bend, falling 5-0.