By Noah Allison–
Mark Beckham’s young women’s tennis team continues to impress. With a current 9-5 record, even in defeat, the Cardinals can gauge themselves against the top competition in the country.
This past week they played host to the top 30-ranked Notre Dame Irish. The Irish won the match 4-3, with the deciding point coming down to a close doubles event. Despite their underdog status, the Cards were putting on the pressure, and as they continue to improve, it looks like they will be putting on the pressure for the next few years.
“Everything that we do is a new experience for us. I can’t be too upset with them because we’re putting ourselves in situations where we could win matches, but we couldn’t quite get over the hump kind of thing. And for me, with my team mainly being freshmen and sophomores, we kind of have to go through these things,” Coach Beckham said.
“That team (Notre Dame) was a Sweet Sixteen team last year. They’ve already been through the ACC grind of all of these really good teams and every singles match is just a war. They’ve been through it already. We’re trying to find our way through. But the thing about it is we are getting better. So I hope we can mature sooner than expected and start getting our wins, but I feel good about how we are progressing,” Beckham said.
Beckham’s Cards entered the match with a national ranking of 74. The team has five freshmen, four sophomores and one senior.
One of Louisville’s more impressive performances on the day was by freshman Jessie Lynn Paul on the number-two singles court.
She made quick work of her opponent in the first set winning 6-0, then weathered the comeback storm and won the second set in tiebreak fashion to get the Cards their first point of the day.
“Obviously we have a lot of freshmen, and we’re young and we don’t have a ton of experience but it gives us a good gauge and shows us that we are right there with the best of them. And if we keep working and keep working together then obviously I think we can be just as good as them if not better,” Paul said.
The doubles match came down to Louisville’s number one-court of sophomore Elle Stokes and freshman Ariana Rodriguez. With Louisville and Notre Dame splitting courts two and three, it came down to Louisville’s best versus Notre Dame’s best. Notre Dame’s best, the doubles team of Quinn Gleason and Monica Robinson, happens to be the 14th-ranked doubles team in the nation. Louisville took a 2-1 lead in the set and it was a battle the rest of the way before Notre Dame won it 8-6 in the end, eventually deciding the fate of the overall team match.
“That number-one team is top 15 in the nation in doubles. I’ve got a freshman and sophomore actually playing against them, creating opportunities and had a real shot of winning that match. I’ve got some talented girls, talented players, we just have to mature a bit and get some experience, but I think things are going in the right direction for sure,” Beckham said.
A month into team competition, U of L is about to enter the ACC stretch. Half of the team’s collegiate career began just a month ago and they are all improving. The task for Beckham is to keep things in perspective while still making the most of this season.
“We’re different. We are taking steps towards becoming much better. But the problem is with being young like they are, I see it but they don’t see it,” Beckham said. “I’ve just got to make sure that they stay the course and understand that the level that we are playing against, in these good teams, we have no other option but to get better.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal