Academy of Notre Dame nets early success

After suffering some gut-wrenching Inter-Ac League losses last season, Academy of Notre Dame coach Steve Hall entered the pre-season hoping the girls would use last season’s adversity as a motivating factor to succeed this year.

To date, it appears as if the Irish tennis team has done just that winning their first five matches of the year including hard-fought wins over Friend’s Schools League foes Shipley and Friends’ Central.

“Last season was extremely difficult,’ Hall said. “I think they learned a lot and used it to motivate them this year. I think we all know how special and talented this team is and to see they get early results confirms and establishes they are a good team that continues to gain confidence.’

“Getting off to a quick start has been important, especially with three freshman in our starting ladder,’ said senior captain Meredith Hughes, who plays second singles. “We have been working hard and knowing we can win matches has definitely helped us gain confidence.’

The Irish entered their match against FCS coming off to a pivotal 4-1 win over Shipley. Gaining more and more confidence every day, the Irish came out strong with Hughes and junior Ann Marie Crinnion registered wins at second and third singles, respectively.

The second doubles team of freshman Nataline Hughes and Adrianna Bull earned NDA’s third point when FCS was forced to default due to injury. Despite holding what looked to be a commanding lead with four matches left, the Phoenix appeared to be staging a rally by winning the first set in each of the remaining matches.

However, NDA relied on their tight-knit chemistry they have developed along with their ability to overcome adversity to be able to see two of their three doubles teams to rally and clinch a 5-2 hard fought victory.

Hall said, “Overcoming adversity builds character. This team has a lot of heart and they will fight until the last point is played win or lose and is this due in large part to our seniors who have been through it all. They are a constant source of energy, enthusiasm and leadership. We simply would not be in this position without them.’

“Our seniors have been great leaders on and off the court,’ Crinnion said. “I personally look up to Meredith (Hughes) and I try to model my game after her. All three seniors keep a positive attitude and they helped me learn the value of teammates. We have so much fun and they are the main reason.’

To help build team chemistry off the court, the team takes a trip to the U. S. Open to watch some of the best in their sport along with hosting various team events throughout the year.

Crinnion said, “We are extremely close. Traveling to the U.S. Open is a great bonding trip. We also see some of the best tennis players in the world. There is nothing better than being able to bond over tennis.’

Armed with a roster consisting of senior leadership (Hughes; Emily Schanz at No. 2 doubles and Mackenzie Kennedy at No. 3 doubles) combined with youth (sophomore Grace Leasure at No.1 singles; Crinnion; freshman Caroline Makay and junior Audrey Hart at No. 1 doubles; Hughes and Bull; junior Rachel Weber at No. 3 doubles and junior Darby Smith at No. 4 doubles) the Irish seemed poise to continue to build on their early season success as they head into their annual challenging Inter-Ac schedule.

Hall said, “I am just really excited for the girls. They have the unique ability to balance having fun and joking off the court, and being able to flip that competitive switch to work hard and grind on the court. It is a pleasure to be around such a great group of girls. I am very proud to be their coach.’

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