FORT WAYNE – The afternoons telecast that announced the pairings for the NCAA womens tennis tournament was in the wrapping-up stages, and already the pockets of player conversation around the long table inside IPFWs Gates Center was about the Mastodons first-round opponent.
But from the end opposite where coach Eric Burns sat, a plaintive voice arose from the group, Where are we going?
Michigan. IPFW is going to Michigan.
To a woman, the team that has won 17 consecutive matches, including the 4-3 victory over UMKC that clinched it the Summit League tournament title and a berth into the tournament, wanted to play at some exotic locale; one preferably with a beach.
With nations sixth-ranked and regular-season Big Ten champion Wolverines (21-5) dead ahead, the 1 p.m. first-round match May 10 promises to be no day at the beach for IPFW.
They know what theyre up against, Burns said. Theyve seen these girls play at our (ITA) regional in the fall. They know the level of competition theyre going to have to play at.
Were going to enjoy this experience. Lets do some head-hunting. Lets see if we can try to pull an upset in a match or two, or even get a set. Like at Northwestern (two years ago), we were up 5-3 when the match got stopped against their No. 1 (doubles) team, and I think they were 12th in the nation at the time. Were looking for those kind of matches. Maybe we can get over the hump in one of those and pull an upset; kind of shock em a little bit.
This will be the third NCAA appearance for IPFW in the past four years.
In 2010, IPFW lost 4-0 at Notre Dame. A year later, the Mastodons went to Northwestern and lost by the same score.
It will be the second NCAA tournament for No. 2 singles player Caterina Kiefer – kind of.
Kiefer was two games into her No. 4 singles match at Northwestern when she tore the ACL in her left knee.
Nevertheless, she says the tournament experience will benefit her.
Its going to help with the nervousness that everyone has, since Ive already been there two years ago, Kiefer said.
Im not going to be as nervous, but Ill be excited.
In May 10s 10 a.m. match at Michigan, Notre Dame (17-8) will face North Carolina State (14-9). Fridays winners play at 1 p.m. Saturday.