March 1, 2008
The No.16 Notre Dame women’s tennis team looked primed for an upset after easily earning the doubles point over defending national champion and second-ranked Georgia Tech. But the Yellow Jackets quickly took control of the match by dominating singles play, winning five of six singles contests to earn the 5-2 victory.
The Irish (7-7) came out hot at home, surging to early leads in all three doubles matches. Colleen Rielley and Cosmina Ciobanu were first off the courts for Notre Dame. The Irish sophomores jumped out to an early 4-1 lead over Sasha Krupina and Kristen Flower with two breaks of serve and never looked back. The 8-4 win was the duo’s eighth in nine matches as a team.
Veterans Kelcy Tefft and Brook Buck clinched the doubles point for Notre Dame. The nation’s third-ranked doubles team won six of the match’s first seven games and cruised to the 8-2 win over Kristi Miller and Whitney McCray. Buck and Tefft extended their winning streak to six matches and are a team-best 22-4 on the year.
The No. 2 match appeared to be in the hands of the Irish as well, with Kali Krisik and Kristen Raphael vaulting to a 3-0 lead. The Yellow Jacket team of Noelle Hickey and Christy Striplin battled back, however, and tied the match at five games apiece. An Irish break and hold made the score 7-5, but Notre Dame could not convert on a match point in the next game. When Georgia Tech broke Krisik’s serve, the match went to a tiebreaker at 7-7 with the doubles point already decided. Tech got the early lead and won the tiebreaker 7-4. The loss dropped Rafael and Krisik to 3-5 this season.
Rielley was the lone singles victor for Notre Dame as she notched one of her best wins of the season, a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) triumph over 84th-ranked Striplin of Georgia Tech. The sophomore cruised through the first set and had a 4-2 lead in the second before Striplin responded. The Yellow Jacket won three straight games to take a 5-4 lead. Three consecutive holds, two of which were long deuce games set the stage for a second set tiebreaker. Rielley took control by winning numerous long rallies and prevailed 7-3 to take the match. Rielley snapped a three match losing streak to improve her record to 12-10.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Rielley’s victory came after the match was clinched. Georgia Tech, who started six ranked players in their singles lineup, won the first five matches off the court, each in straight sets.
Noelle Hickey tied the match at one apiece with her 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Krisik. The loss was just the second of the dual season for Krisik, who had her 11 match winning streak halted. The sophomore stands at 21-4 on the year.
Ciobanu suffered her tenth loss of the dual season, falling to 30th ranked Kristen Flower 6-4, 6-2. She had a lead early in the first set before a late break pushed the momentum to Flower. The Notre Dame sophomore is now 15-14 this season. Senior captain Brook Buck fought valiantly, but was upended by Amanda McDowell, Tech’s highest ranked player at 4th in the nation, 6-1, 6-3. Buck was on serve for much of the second set until the Yellow Jacket sophomore broke her at 3-4. A subsequent hold clinched the match for McDowell. Buck’s record fell to 7-14 this season.
The clinching point came from Maya Johansson who bested freshman Kristen Rafael 6-3, 6-4. A single break decided the first set, and Rafael led 3-2 in the second, before Johansson, ranked 19th nationally, asserted herself to win four of the match’s final five games. Saturday marked just the second time Rafael has been in Notre Dame’s singles lineup, and first since a February 15th win over Wisconsin. Rafael is now 6-4 on the year.
Georgia Tech’s final point came seconds later when 6th ranked Kristi Miller closed out Kelcy Tefft 6-3, 6-4. Tefft battled to earn a 4-3 advantage in the second set, but was broken at 4-4 and fell for just the third time in dual action. Tefft is 15-6 on the year and 4-3 at the No. 1 singles position.
The Irish will look to rebound from Saturday’s setback when they take their spring break trip to Honolulu to battle Hawaii Thursday. The match will be Notre Dame’s first outdoor contest of the season. First serve is scheduled for 1:00 local time at the UH Tennis Complex.