Senior Kristina Stastny provided the 16th clinching victory of her career. (photo by Greg Owen)

#2 Irish Claim Seventh BIG EAST Title With 4-1 Win At USF

April 23, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. – The top-seeded and second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (24-1) beat tournament host South Florida (16-5) by a 4-1 score Sunday morning at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts to win the title match of the BIG EAST Conference Championship. The Irish claimed their second straight league crown and seventh in 11 years of membership in the conference.

Notre Dame won the doubles point and got a pair of straight-set wins in singles and a three-set triumph to clinch the match. The Bulls won in two sets at No. 2, and the Nos. 3 and 4 matches both appeared to be headed for third sets when they were abandoned.

It was two Irish seniors who delivered the decisive blows in the contest. The team captain, Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.), finished off a tight straight-set win against Luisa Obardo at No. 6, winning by scores of 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 for her 10th consecutive singles victory. Connelly is 15-6 overall this season, including an unbeaten mark in seven dual matches. Immediately thereafter, ND senior Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) provided the clinching win with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 triumph against Iciri Rai at No. 5. It was the fifth match-clinching win for her this season and the 16th of her career. Only one Notre Dame player – 2002 graduate Lindsey Green (19 clinching wins – has more match-clinchers since the statistic debuted in 1999.

Junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), ranked sixth in the nation, were off the court first in doubles, winning a battle of top-10 teams by an 8-3 score at No. 1 with a triumph against the 10th-ranked squad of Gabriela Duch and Neyssa Etienne. The Thompsons also beat that Bulls team during the fall, and they are now 22-4 overall and 16-3 on the season. Christian Thompson earned the 50th doubles win of her career, to go with just 18 defeats.

Sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.), ranked 38th, clinched the doubles point for the second straight day and team-leading 10th time this season with an 8-4 victory over Rai and Liz Cruz at No. 2. They are now 31-5 on the season, including 21-3 in dual action. Connelly and Stastny were up 5-4 against Obardo and Courtney Vernon at No. 3 when that match was abandoned.

USF got on the board in singles, when 57th-ranked Vernon won 6-2, 6-0 against 99th-ranked Christian Thompson at No. 2.

Catrina Thompson, ranked 31st, then completed a dominating performance in the BIG EAST tournament with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against 63rd-ranked Neyssa Etienne at No. 1. In three singles matches, Thompson dropped just five total games, and she also went unbeaten in doubles, losing no more than three games in any match. She improved to 27-10 overall, including 17-5 in dual play at No. 1.

Buck, ranked 80th, was leading 75th-ranked Cruz 6-3, 4-5 at No. 3when that match was abandoned, while Duch was up 7-5, 1-5 against Tefft at No. 4.

Notre Dame improved to 24-4 overall in the BIG EAST tournament, having also won championships in 1996, ’97, ’99, 2001, ’03, and ’05.

Next up for the Irish will be the NCAA Championship, which begins on campus sites May 12. The draw for that will be announced on May 3.

[No. 1 seed] #2 Notre Dame 4, [No. 2 seed] #37 South Florida 1SinglesNo. 1:  #31 Catrina Thompson (ND) def. #63 Neyssa Etienne (USF) 6-2, 6-2No. 2:  #57 Courtney Vernon (USF) def. #99 Christian Thompson (ND) 6-2, 6-0No. 3:  #80 Brook Buck (ND) led #75 Liz Cruz (USF) 6-3, 4-5, abandonedNo. 4:  Gabriela Duch led Kelcy Tefft (ND) 7-5, 1-5, abandonedNo. 5:  * Kristina Stastny (ND) def. Iciri Rai (USF) 3-6, 6-1, 6-1No. 6:  Lauren Connelly (ND) def. Luisa Obardo (USF) 7-6 (7-2), 6-3Order of Finish: 1, 6, 5*DoublesNo. 1:  #6 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. #10 Duch/Etienne (USF) 8-3No. 2:  * #38 Buck/Tefft (ND) def. Cruz/Rai (USF) 8-4No. 3:  Connelly/Stastny (ND) led Obardo/Vernon (USF) 5-4, abandonedOrder of Finish: 1, 2** - indicates clinching victory