Senior Catrina Thompson.

#2 Irish Beat Iowa 6-1 For First-Ever 16-0 Start

March 24, 2006

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team beat #39 Iowa 6-1 Friday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion to improve to 16-0 for the first time in the 30-year varsity history of the program. The Irish – one of only three Division I teams that remain unbeaten – improved to 6-0 this season against Big Ten Conference opponents (having won 7-0 or 6-1 in each of those contests), while the Hawkeyes (9-3) saw their eight-match winning streak ended.

Notre Dame won at the top two spots to claim the doubles point and then got quick straight-set victories at Nos. 1, 5, and 6 in singles – not losing more than four games in any of those contests – to clinch the win. The Irish then added match-tiebreaker triumphs at Nos. 2 and 3 before Iowa avoided the shutout with a victory at No. 4.

The Irish won the doubles point for the 16th time in as many matches this spring, dropping just six total games at the top two spots. First off the court was the third-ranked team in college tennis, junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), who beat Jacqueline Lee and Meg Racette 8-2 at No. 1. They have lost just seven total games in their last three matches, since suffering their third defeat of the season on March 5. The Thompsons are 16-3 overall and 10-2 in dual action at No. 1. They are 7-1 in home matches. Lee and Racette had been 10-2 on the season (8-2 dual at No. 1) and were dealt their most-lopsided defeat of the season. Racette earned a tiebreaker victory against the Thompsons in dual-match action in 2004, but the Irish sisters have won each of the three subsequent matchups.

Sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.), ranked 29th in the nation, provided the clinching victory for the sixth time with an 8-4 win against Kayla Berry and Hillary Mintz at No. 2. They are 24-4 on the season, including 14-2 in dual play. Buck and Tefft are 9-2 at home and 14-2 against Midwest Region opposition.

Iowa became the first school to beat the Irish at No. 3 doubles this spring, but it was not a routine victory for Australian Krissy Dowlin and Serbian Milica Veselinovic, who ended the 15-match winning streak of Notre Dame seniors Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) and team captain Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.). Dowlin and Veselinovic – pairing together for the first time – got an early service break and led for virtually the entire match. They broke a second time to go up 7-4, and Dowlin had an opportunity to serve out the match. The Hawkeyes had a match point, but a big Connelly return set up a backhand volley winner by Stastny, and two more Irish volley winners gave Notre Dame the service break.

The Irish dropped just a single point on Stastny’s serve, and Veselinovic then tried to serve out the match at 7-6. At 30-30, Dowlin could not put a backpedaling overhead into the court, and the next point saw her unable to handle a Connelly forehand to even the match at 7-7.

Because the doubles point had already been decided, the coaches agreed to immediately play a tiebreaker, which was tight the entire way; neither side built a two-point advantage until the final margin. Connelly and Stastny were up 5-4, but a volley error and a forehand winner down the line by Veselinovic to end a big rally put Iowa ahead 6-5 and gave the Hawkeyes a match point. A big Stastny groundstroke set up a volley winner by Connelly to erase that, and a Stastny forehand winner past Veselinovic handed the Irish a match point of their own at 7-6. Connelly’s return of the Serbian’s serve went just long to knot the score at 7-7, and the Irish captain then barely missed a swinging backhand volley to hand the Hawkeyes a third match point. This one was converted, as a would-be backhand passing-shot winner down the line by Connelly hit the tape and fell to the ground on the Irish side of the net, ending an 8-7 (9-7) match.

Freshman Katie Potts (Brookfield, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) was done first in singles, beating freshman Merel Beelen from Holland 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6. The Irish rookie is 21-4 on the season, including 15-1 in dual action, while Notre Dame remained undefeated at No. 6 singles this season. Potts has won 10 in a row at home, 17 straight indoors, and 11 in a row vs. regional foes.

Stastny got a measure of revenge on Dowlin in singles, beating her 6-3, 6-1 at No. 5 to put Notre Dame up 3-0. She holds the team lead in singles victories with a 23-6 record, including 14-2 in dual play. Stastny is 10-1 at home and has won nine straight against the Midwest Region.

Clinching the match for the second time this season was 30th-ranked Catrina Thompson, who prevailed 6-1, 6-3 against 33rd-ranked Racette at No. 1. It ended a seven-match winning streak for the Iowa junior, who had been 9-2 at No. 1 this spring, including a victory against defending NCAA singles champion Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor. Thompson – who has won all four career meetings with Racette – is 21-8 on the season, including 11-3 in dual action at No. 1. She has 10 wins against nationally-ranked players (24 in her career) and is 11-1 vs. regional opponents. Thompson earned her 28th career victory (in 39 matches) at the No. 1 singles position, putting her in sole possession of fifth place on the all-time Notre Dame list for wins at the top spot.

Following a slow start, Buck came back to beat Veselinivoc 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-3) at No. 3. It was the first time in her last 17 opportunities that Buck rallied from a one-set deficit for victory. She is now 16-8 on the season, including 10-5 in dual play. Buck has won 10 in a row against the region and is unbeaten in four career match tiebreakers. The Serbian had won six in a row.

Christian Thompson, ranked 74th, made the score 6-0 with a 6-1, 5-7, 1-0 (10-5) win against Mintz at No. 2. The Irish junior held a 5-1 advantage in the second set, but could not close out the match until the super tiebreaker. Thompson is 19-6 on the season, 11-4 in dual play.

Lee got Iowa on the scoreboard with a 6-4, 7-5 upset of Tefft, who entered the national singles rankings for the first time on Tuesday, at 110th. It ended a 10-match winning streak for the Notre Dame rookie, who had been 20-2 as a collegian. Lee has now won 10 in a row – not dropping a set in that span – and is 11-1 overall this spring, all at No. 4.

Notre Dame started the 1983-84 season with 15 consecutive victories, but then fell 7-2 to Michigan on March 27 in its 16th match.

The Irish beat Iowa for the ninth consecutive time and now lead the all-time series 13-1.

Notre Dame will return to action on Wednesday, traveling to #12 Vanderbilt for a 2:30 p.m. (CT) match.

#2 Notre Dame 6, #39 Iowa 1SinglesNo. 1:  * #30 Catrina Thompson (ND) def. #33 Meg Racette (I) 6-1, 6-3No. 2:  #74 Christian Thompson (ND) def. Hillary Mintz (I) 6-1, 5-7, 1-0 (10-5)No. 3:  Brook Buck (ND) def. Milica Veselinovic (I) 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-3)No. 4:  Jacqueline Lee (I) def. #110 Kelcy Tefft (ND) 6-4, 7-5No. 5:  Kristina Stastny (ND) def. Krissy Dowlin (I) 6-3, 6-1No. 6:  Katie Potts (ND) def. Merel Beelen (I) 6-1, 6-2Order of Finish: 6, 5, 1*, 3, 2, 4DoublesNo. 1:  #3 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. Lee/Racette (I) 8-2No. 2:  * #29 Buck/Tefft (ND) def. Kayla Berry/Mintz (I) 8-4No. 3:  Dowlin/Veselinovic (I) def. Lauren Connelly/Stastny (ND) 8-7 (9-7)Order of Finish: 1, 2*, 3* - indicates clinching victory