ITA Kick-Off Weekend presents new challenges for ASU women's tennis

The first road match of the spring season will take the ASU women’s tennis team to Illinois for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kick-Off Weekend.

The weekend will feature an indoor tournament. On Saturday, the women will play against Notre Dame at 3 p.m.

No. 21 Notre Dame is led by sophomore Quinn Gleason. She is ranked No. 67 in the nation and will likely be matched against sophomore Stephanie Vlad, ranked 50th.

ASU coach Sheila McInerney said the team had prepared for solid opponents.

“We’ve definitely scouted the teams that are going to be playing there,” McInerney said.

These scouting reports include information on forehand and backhand swings and other players' tendencies.

It also shows that Notre Dame boasts a duo of seniors Julie Sabacinski and Britney Sanders, who were ranked No. 78 in doubles rankings at the end of the 2013 season.

The strong doubles play could present a challenge to the Sun Devils.

After the NAU match, McInerney said she was disappointed in doubles play and made it a point of emphasis in practice this week.

“I think the kids are getting more used to playing with each other,” McInerney said.

Juniors Joanna Smith and Leighann Sahagun will be playing together against Notre Dame. They won their set against NAU last weekend.

The other doubles teams will be Vlad with sophomore Ebony Panoho and sophomore Desirae Krawczyk with freshman Kassidy Jump.

No. 1 seed Northwestern is ranked No. 15 in the nation and features No. 105 senior Belinda Niu.

Though they have scouted all the opponents, McInerney tells the players to focus on their own games.

“Sometimes it’s more important to concentrate on your own game rather than worry about what other people are going to do,” she said.

No. 29 Oklahoma State comes into this tournament as the No. 4 seed despite having senior Kanyapat Narattana, who is ranked 59th in singles.

“It’s going to be good competition,” McInerney said. “It’s going to give us a good idea of where we are right now and what we need to work on moving forward.”

ITA experimentation seen at the NAU match will continue in this tournament. There will be three sets of doubles with no warmups and a match-breaker for the third set of singles.

This is one of the many differences with which players may not be familiar. The tournament is indoors, and McInerney said her squad is the only team that isn’t accustomed to indoor conditions.

“It’s good, you need to face all kinds of challenges,” McInerney said. “That’s going to make us better no matter what happens this weekend.”

The tournament continues Sunday with a consolation match of the losers of the ASU versus Notre Dame match against the losers of the Northwestern and Oklahoma State match at 10 a.m. CST. The championship match between the winners will be played at 2 p.m.

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