On a team that has struggled to a 7-13 record this season, one duo is shining through on the Butler women’s tennis team.
Sophomores Stephanie McLoughlin and Gabrielle Rubenstein are 18-9 as a doubles pairing for the Bulldogs this season. That mark includes a 6-0 record in conference action.
“Teams just don’t play the way they play,” coach Jason Suscha said. “They play doubles the way it’s supposed to be played.”
McLoughlin and Rubenstein, like most college athletes, have been playing their sport of choice since they were young.
McLoughlin comes from a tennis family. Her dad was an Indiana University tennis star, and her brother, Stephen, is a senior on the Butler men’s tennis team.
“Growing up, my dad always emphasized doubles, and I played any chance I got,” McLoughlin said.
Rubenstein, a former state singles champion at Brebeuf Jesuit High School, said she was always told that if she wanted to play in college, she needed to know how to play both singles and doubles.
“You just aren’t as valuable if you can’t play both,” Rubenstein said.
The two have been playing together since their very first week of practice at Butler.
“There is no right way to do things,” Rubenstein said. “You just learn to move with your partner, and after a while you figure out their strengths and weaknesses.”
McLoughlin said she lets Rubenstein be the aggressor in their matches.
“I tend to set up on the baseline, and Gabby has great hands and puts it away,” McLoughlin said.
Doubles pair sophomore Caroline Hedrick and junior Brittany Farmer both said that to be successful in doubles, partners have to play off each other’s strengths.
“Our game really complements each other really well,” Farmer said. “I’m more of the power player, and she’s more consistent.”
Hedrick and Farmer have been the second strongest doubles duo on the women’s team, posting a record of 9-7 overall.
“We have opposite games, but it works,” Hedrick said.
Suscha said he stresses aggressive play in doubles— something that he said a lot of other women’s doubles teams don’t do.
Rubenstein and McLoughlin said they have embraced the style.
“We have developed a controlled aggression,” McLoughlin said. “We come across teams that play so passively, and because we play aggressively they don’t know how to handle it. We just control the match.”
Suscha said one of the toughest things for all of the Bulldogs has been adjusting from the aggressive doubles play to the more passive play seen in singles.
“You don’t usually see teams being good at both because it is two different styles of play,” Suscha said.
Hedrick said she uses doubles action as an opportunity to prepare for her No. 1 singles matches.
“I think it’s a nice segue into singles,” Hedrick said. “You are warmed up and already in the right mindset.”
McLoughlin said she recognizes the differences between singles and doubles and has been able to overcome them to be successful in doubles play.
“You don’t necessarily have to have crazy endurance or beautiful ground strokes like you do in singles,” McLoughlin said. “You just have to be aggressive.”
Rubenstein said it’s more about mentality and athleticism.
“To play great doubles, you have to be more gifted athletically,” Rubenstein said. “But more importantly, you have to have the right mindset.”
Suscha said that Rubenstein and McLoughlin really understand what it takes to be successful.
“If you play [doubles] right and you play it aggressively, it’s hard to lose,” Suscha said. “And they’ve got it going on. They’re always coming at you.”