IU gets its first road test this weekend and Notre Dame gets its first gut check.
IU hasn’t played on the road this season, and Notre Dame hasn’t played a doubleheader yet.
The Hoosiers, 8-1, have played four doubleheaders, one each weekend since the dual season started, and they have won all of them.
IU’s sole loss of the season came last Sunday against Tennessee 4-3.
Notre Dame, 2-2, will have its first doubleheader against Indiana and Wright State this weekend.
IU Coach Ramiro Azcui said the doubleheaders will help his team when they face Notre Dame, a strong program consistently ranked in the top 30 to 40 in the country.
“In that second game of a doubleheader, you have to play tired and concentrate a lot more,” Azcui said. “When you play a team like Notre Dame, those doubleheaders can make a difference.”
Last year, Notre Dame beat IU 6-1 in Bloomington.
IU’s only point of the match came from the first doubles point.
IU will need to control the match from the start to give itself the best chance of beating Notre Dame and avoid dropping three straight duals to the Fighting Irish.
Azcui said the doubles point gives his team momentum and puts less pressure on his players because that puts the team three singles victories away from winning the match.
“Anytime you play a good team, you want to be able to win the doubles point,” Azcui said. “It’s hard to take four singles out of a good team. The doubles point becomes a crucial part.”
IU is 19-4 in doubles on the season. IU has only ceded the doubles point once against Cincinnati.
Sophomore Caitlin Bernard and freshman Jelly Bozovic are undefeated as a duo at 6-0. Junior Madison Appel and freshman Michelle McKamey are 6-2, and junior Natalie Whalen and freshman Olga Zavarotnaya are 4-1.
These three pairs above account for 16 of IU’s doubles wins, and it is most likely the lineup IU will field against Notre Dame.
As for singles, Appel leads the way at 7-0 for the Hoosiers this season. She will be another point IU looks to earn.
Appel has never beaten Notre Dame in the two times she’s faced off against the Fighting Irish.
After winning the first set 6-4, Appel lost the next two 6-1, 6-1 in her singles match last year against then-senior Monica Robinson.
Appel said she likes her chances of leaving South Bend, Indiana, with a victory.
“I am confident about the match,” Appel said. “I am practicing and competing the best I ever have.”
Take last weekend, for example.
Appel defeated Tennessee junior Sadie Hammond 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. Last year, Appel lost to Hammond 6-3, 6-2.
As an upperclassman and the top player, Appel is a leader on the team. Three freshmen – Bozovic, McKamey and Zavarotnaya – will compete in their first collegiate road match, and Appel said the biggest thing she would tell them is to have fun.
“We get to go to really big and talented schools like Notre Dame, and we should enjoy it,” Appel said. “I put too much pressure on myself when I was a freshman, and it wasn’t necessary.”
Azcui said he will be looking for the freshmen to adjust to a different environment. He said controlling emotions is the one area of improvement he wants to see from his younger players.
“The crowd will be against them,” Azcui said. “This is something they have not experienced yet, and I am hoping they will be able to overcome that.”
IU has an opportunity to respond from a tough loss to Tennessee in an emphatic fashion with a win at Notre Dame.
Azcui said anytime his team can defeat a power five ACC team that has gotten to the NCAA tournament for so many years, it validates everything IU has been working for.
“This is why you come to Indiana,” Azcui said. “You get to play the good teams.”
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