Indiana Daily Student

Clash of ranked opponents pits Hoosiers against Irish

The Hoosiers will seek to peg back a University of Notre Dame team rolling into Bloomington on a wave of momentum today as the two squads reprise their intrastate rivalry. The teams are scheduled to face each other at 2 p.m. at the IU Tennis Center.

Only three spots separate No. 26 Indiana from the No. 29 Fighting Irish, who will attempt to avenge this past month’s 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Hoosiers in Columbus, Ohio.

Since that encounter, the teams’ trajectories have taken disparate paths. While the Irish have played at least once every week, racking up wins against a number of ranked opponents, the Hoosiers enter today’s contest on the tail end of a 17-day layoff.

During that time, Notre Dame has recorded victories against No. 28 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as No. 56 Michigan State and Marquette at home.

IU Coach Randy Bloemendaal said he is under no illusions that the rematch will follow the same script as the first clash.

“They’re well-coached and were going to come in very well-prepared, regardless,” Bloemendaal said. “But I think right now they have some confidence, and we’re going to have to beat them.”

Senior Will Kendall echoed Bloemendaal’s sentiment and said the team is guarding against overconfidence given the favorable result of its first match against the Irish.  

“We are expecting an extremely tough match,” Kendall said. “We took them down earlier, but this will be completely different. They’ve had a few good results and are probably feeling pretty confident. It will be great to go out and play a team like that.”

Both Bloemendaal and Kendall were quick to point out that the Irish pushed No. 6 Kentucky — who beat the Hoosiers, 7-0, Jan. 24 — to the brink of defeat, falling only a set short of pulling off a major upset of the Wildcats.

Though Notre Dame only boasts one ranked player, No. 49 Greg Andrews, to Kentucky’s six, the Irish nearly triumphed, thanks in large part to Andrews’ dismissal of No. 13 Alex Musialek in straight sets.

The Hoosiers can also now lay claim to a netter ranked in the ITA Top 125. Josh MacTaggart made his season debut at No. 82, buoyed by a 7-6 (7), 6-4 win against the nation’s then-No. 53 singles player, Oklahoma’s Guillermo Alcorta, earlier this month.

Today’s battle, which Bloemendaal said could serve as either a jolt of momentum or a setback heading into Big Ten season, could not come soon enough for the team, Kendall said.

“It’s definitely been unique having a layoff this long in the middle of the season,” Kendall said. “It’s something we’re not used to, but it’s also given us an opportunity to make some jumps as a team in practice, which is something we’ve emphasized in the last few weeks.”

Whether the hours of intrasquad competition translate into success against a resurgent Notre Dame team remains to be seen, but Bloemendaal insisted his team should relish the opportunity to prove themselves at home.

“It’s fun time. It’s passion time,” Bloemendaal said. “Go out there and compete. I think we have a lot of great competitors on this team. I’m looking forward to it.”

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