Feb. 19, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 15th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team sprinted to a 5-0 advantage and won 5-2 over #9 Harvard (5-3) Sunday morning in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish – who have topped top-10 teams twice in eight days – are off to a 7-0 start for the first time since becoming a Division I program in 1985-86. Notre Dame is now 5-0 in a stretch of six consecutive matches against top-30 squads that will conclude with a visit by #20 Brigham Young on Saturday at 11 a.m. (EST) in the Eck Pavilion.
The Irish swept the doubles matches – including 8-1 wins at the bottom two positions – and posted straight-set victories at Nos. 3, 4, and 6 to go up 4-0 and clinch the victory. After Notre Dame – which has jumped out to a 4-0 advantage in six of seven matches this spring – won a match tiebreaker at No. 1, Harvard avoided the shutout with a tight two-set win at No. 2 and a match-tiebreaker triumph at No. 5.
Notre Dame – the only Division I squad with three ranked doubles teams – won the doubles point for the seventh time in as many matches this spring and improved to a combined 20-1 in dual partnered play. Fourteen of those contests (67%) have seen the opposition win three games or fewer.
First off the court was the 35th-ranked team of sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.), who registered their third 8-1 victory of the season by topping Stephanie Schnitter and Eva Wang at No. 2. Buck and Tefft have won 10 consecutive matches, dating back to Oct. 23, and stand 17-2 overall (7-0 dual).
Irish seniors Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) dropped only a single game in beating Cindy Chu and Preethi Mukundan at No. 3. The Notre Dame veterans continued to lead the team in doubles victories on the season, improving to 18-5 (7-0 dual) and surrendering two games or fewer for the 10th time. They picked up their second clinching win of the season.
The No. 1 match featured two of the top doubles teams in all of college tennis, as Notre Dame junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) – ranked #1 – took on the sixth-ranked squad of Melissa Anderson from Australia and Elsa O’Riain of Ireland. The Crimson duo – which won the title in the ITA East Region Championships, reached the quarterfinals in both of the season’s first two grand slams, and entered with a 22-3 record – started quickly, grabbing two early service breaks to go up 3-0. Notre Dame broke Anderson’s serve in the match’s fourth game to get on the board, but remained down a break for much of the contest.
When Anderson served to try to put Harvard up 7-5, the Crimson won the game’s first two points, but the Thompsons would rally to break and knot the match at 6-6. Following a hold by Catrina, the Irish won the first two points on O’Riain’s serve and looked to be on the verge of an 8-6 triumph. But the native of Ireland would use some big serving to win four straight points and prolong the match. Up 8-7, the Thompsons had a match point on Anderson’s serve, but could not put their return in the court, and O’Riain eventually used a backhand volley winner to send the match to a tiebreaker.
After trailing 3-2, the Notre Dame twins won four straight points – a Harvard error into the net, a forehand volley winner from Christian, an unreturnable serve by Catrina, and a Crimson lob that sailed just long – to take control. But Anderson and O’Riain were not done yet, as they both produced volley winners to make it 6-5. On match point #4, Christian Thompson put a volley at the feet of Anderson, who got a racket on it, but could only pop it up in the center of the court. Catrina Thompson then used a big backhand winner down the middle to hand the Irish a 9-8 (7-5) victory and a sweep of the doubles.
The Thompsons improved to 11-2 on the season, including 5-1 in dual action. They are 5-1 in 2005-06 against top-10 opponents and now boast wins against the teams ranked #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6.
First off the court in singles was Buck, who lost the first three games of her match with Anderson at No. 3 and then battled back to break serve late to get into a first-set tiebreaker. A win in that would springboard her to a dominant and lightning-fast second set in wrapping up a 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 win against the senior from Australia, who had been ranked 78th in the preseason and entered the match with a 13-4 record on the season. Buck won her third in a row to improve to 10-5 on the season, 4-2 in dual action.
Next off the court was freshman Katie Potts (Brookfield, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.), who beat Cindy Chu 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6 for her 11th consecutive victory, dating back to Oct. 22. She is now 13-3 on the season, including 7-0 in dual action.
Clinching the win for the first time as a collegian was Tefft, who upset 67th-ranked Mukundan 6-3, 6-2 at No. 4. The Irish rookie came through in just her second match against a nationally-ranked player and improved to 12-2 on the season, including 4-1 in dual matches.
Catrina Thompson, ranked 24th, made it 5-0 with a 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (10-1) victory against Wang at No. 1. She has won four straight and holds the team lead in singles wins this season with a 16-6 mark, including 6-1 in dual play at No. 1.
Harvard got on the board when O’Riain – who was ranked 48th in the preseason – concluded a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 decision against Christian Thompson at No. 2. Schnitter then beat Stastny 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 1-0 (10-5) at No. 5 in the final contest.
Notre Dame earned its first-ever victory over Harvard in women’s tennis after the Crimson had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 at home last spring in the first matchup between the squads.
The Irish last began the season with seven consecutive victories in 1984-85, when they were 10-0 en route to finishing 25-5 and advancing all the way to the title match of the NCAA Division II Championship.
Harvard is the highest-ranked team to fall victim to Notre Dame since the Irish beat #7 USC 5-2 on Feb. 7, 2002. ND – which beat #10 North Carolina 5-1 on the road last weekend – has knocked off multiple top-10 squads in the same month for just the third time, having also done that in Februarys of both 1996 and 2001.
Notre Dame – which is in the midst of its longest homestand since 1992-93 (seven matches from Feb. 18-March 10) – has now won eight consecutive matches at home.
#15 Notre Dame 5, #9 Harvard 2SinglesNo. 1: #24 Catrina Thompson (ND) def. Eva Wang (H) 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (10-1)No. 2: Elsa O'Riain (H) def. #44 Christian Thompson (ND) 7-5, 7-5No. 3: Brook Buck (ND) def. Melissa Anderson (H) 7-6 (7-4), 6-0No. 4: * Kelcy Tefft (ND) def. #67 Preethi Mukundan (H) 6-3, 6-2No. 5: Stephanie Schnitter (H) def. Kristina Stastny (ND) 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 1-0 (10-5)No. 6: Katie Potts (ND) def. Cindy Chu (H) 6-1, 6-2Order of Finish: 3, 6, 4*, 1, 2, 5DoublesNo. 1: #1 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. #6 Anderson/O'Riain (H) 9-8 (7-5)No. 2: #35 Buck/Tefft (ND) def. Schnitter/Wang (H) 8-1No. 3: * #45 Lauren Connelly/Stastny (ND) def. Chu/Mukundan (H) 8-1Order of Finish: 2, 3*, 1