The early success of the Michigan women”s tennis team will be put to the test tonight at the Varsity Tennis Center against one of the toughest opponents the team will face this season.

No. 14 Notre Dame (2-0) comes to Ann Arbor riding a seven game winning streak against Michigan, and it has won 10 of the past 11 meetings between the two schools. The Irish have consistently been one of the top teams in the country recently, finishing in the top 15 or higher in the past three seasons.

Coach Bitsy Ritt feels the time is right for the Wolverines (2-0) to end this trend, based on the early accomplishments of this young season.

“It will be interesting to see Notre Dame this season,” Ritt said. “It”s always a good match. Their team has changed a lot from last year and I think there are a lot of question marks (for them). I like our chances we”ll be ready to play.”

The Wolverines have had success against other ranked opponents this season, despite being unranked themselves. The team posted impressive performances this season with a dual match victory over No. 69 Western Michigan and posted at least three singles victories over No. 50 Penn State, No. 49 William & Mary and No. 27 Louisiana State at the Tribe Classic three weeks ago. This was a invitational in which members of each team competed unattached from their respective teams.

Since the Wolverines did not have a match this past weekend, it gave them a few extra days to prepare for Notre Dame. The Irish had a match this past Saturday against Northern Iowa, which Notre Dame easily won 6-1.

“We”ve really worked hard the past few days and made sure we”ll play well and compete hard,” Ritt said.

The extra practice will come in handy, as the Wolverines will have their hands full with No. 1 singles and doubles player Becky Varnum. As Notre Dame”s senior co-captain, Varnum is ranked No. 58 nationally in singles. Although Varnum should be a tough opponent, Ritt feels that the Irish are not as competitive this year because former Notre Dame tennis star Michelle Dasso graduated.

“(Dasso) was an outstanding player for them, one of the best players in the country last year,” Ritt said. “It will be interesting to see them without her. I don”t think they”ve replaced her.”

Ritt indicated that the team has been playing well recently, and the timing is right for a victory over the Irish. This match has the potential to boost the team into the rankings and gain national recognition for her squad, which has been missing so far.

“I think it”s a great challenge and a real opportunity for us,” Ritt said of the difficulty Notre Dame poses. “I think the pressure is on them, as they”re expected to win.”

Two players will look to set benchmarks in career victories in tonight”s singles action. Sophomores Kavitha Tipirneni and Kim Plaushines seek their 20th and 15th career singles victories, respectively. Plaushines has accumulated a 1-1 record this season at No. 5 singles and Tipirneni is also 1-1 at No. 1 singles for the Wolverines.

Last year”s match at South Bend was a decisive 7-0 win for the Irish, who were ranked No. 8 in the country at the time. Michigan lost all three doubles matches, and the team won one just set during the entire contest.

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