Lauren Connelly holds the Notre Dame career records for doubles victories and doubles-point clinching wins.

#2 Irish Fall To #7 Miami In NCAA Quarterfinals

May 19, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – In the latest chapter of a heated rivalry, seventh-ranked Miami (23-6) did what no other team could this season – win the doubles point against #2 Notre Dame (27-2) – and the Irish were never able to recover, losing 4-0 to the Hurricanes in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship Friday evening at the San Francisco Tennis Club. ND posted its second-most wins in program history and matched its deepest run in the Division I tournament.

Miami’s top two players – senior Melissa Applebaum and sophomore Audra Cohen – singlehandedly built a 3-0 lead for the Hurricanes, irreversibly putting momentum on the side of UM. The `Canes were then aided by the format of the match, which was moved inside due to rain and contested initially on just three courts. Because of that, Notre Dame’s best three spots in the singles lineup – Nos. 4, 5, and 6 – did not even get going until Miami was clearly in control of the match. The `Canes also would prevail in what would turn out to be the two most important sets of the match – the No. 1 doubles contest and the opening frame at No. 3 singles – to keep the Irish from mounting any type of rally.

The all-important doubles point came down to the No. 1 match, which featured a clash between two of the nation’s elite squads. Notre Dame junior All-Americans Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) – ranked fifth in the nation after being #1 earlier this spring – won the doubles crown in the season’s first grand slam and are the No. 3 seed in next week’s NCAA Doubles Championship. The Miami duo of Audra Cohen and Melissa Applebaum is ranked #2 in the nation with a 21-1 record together, all at No. 1 singles. After the squads traded breaks in the eighth and ninth games of the match, both sides served well. The Hurricanes held to go up 7-6 and got an Applebaum winner to open the next game to move just three points from victory. But an ace by Catrina and a Christian overhead put the Irish ahead. A double fault by Catrina shifted the momentum of the contest, as she then took a deep volley from Cohen and put a forehand into the net on the next point to give Miami a match point. That ended with Applebaum blasting a forehand down the line at Christian, who dumped her volley into the net.

It was the third consecutive time that the ND-Miami doubles point came down to an 8-6 decision at No. 1 involving the Thompson twins and Applebaum. The sisters prevailed in the regular-season contest in 2004 (a 5-2 Irish win), while Applebaum and Megan Bradley won in that year’s BIG EAST Championship title match, won by the Hurricanes (4-0). Applebaum continued to be an Irish killer in doubles, improving to 5-1 in her career against Notre Dame teams. The Thompsons dropped back-to-back matches for the first time this season, after having lost to Michigan in the second round of the NCAAs (they were up 8-7 when their round-of-16 contest was abandoned).

Irish seniors Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) continued their outstanding play with a speedy 8-1 victory at No. 3 against Caren Seenauth and Patricia Starzyk. It was the 10th consecutive win for the ND duo, which finished 25-1 in dual matches (the only defeat coming in a tiebreaker) and 36-6 overall this season. The victory gave Connelly and Stastny sole possession of four Irish season records: overall doubles wins, doubles wins in dual action, overall doubles winning percentage, and doubles winning percentage in dual play.

Notre Dame lost at No. 2 doubles for just the third time this season, as Audrey Banada and Monika Dancevic prevailed 8-2 over sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.). It ended a seven-match winning streak for the ND duo, which suffered its most-lopsided loss of the season. The Hurricanes moved to 16-4 together this season at No. 2.

Miami ended a streak of Irish doubles perfection that lasted more than a year. The previous time Notre Dame lost the doubles point in an official match was May 14, 2005, at Northwestern in the second round of the NCAAs (the Irish did drop the point in a 4-3 exhibition loss to USC last fall). It was just the fifth time this season that Notre Dame was in a situation where the final doubles match remaining would decide the point. Miami has won the doubles point in 24 of its 28 contests this season.

Off the court first in singles was Cohen, the #2-ranked singles player in college tennis. She beat 30th-ranked Catrina Thompson 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 to give the `Canes a quick 2-0 advantage. The Miami sophomore improved to 31-1 on the season and won the career rubber match in the series between the players. Thompson won 6-2, 6-2 in the regular season a year ago when Cohen played for Northwestern in what remains one of only two straight-set defeats in Cohen’s career. She bounced back for a 6-0, 6-3 triumph in the second round of the NCAA Team Championship last spring. Friday marked the only time all season that Thompson lost in both singles and doubles in a dual match.

Applebaum, ranked 76th, put the Hurricanes ahead 3-0 by downing 113th-ranked Christian Thompson 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2. It was the third career meeting between the players, the first not to go to a third set. Thompson won in the regular season in 2004, and their match was abandoned early in the final set of that year’s BIG EAST final.

Freshman Monika Dancevic of Canada, ranked 107th, eventually provided the clinching victory by topping 87th-ranked Buck 7-5, 6-3 at No. 3. It was not easy, as the opening set was back and forth the whole way, and the 12th and final game went on for several deuces, with both players having opportunities to end it. Dancevic then won five consecutive games to start the second set, but Buck would not go away, rallying to win three in a row. She then had several opportunities at 3-5 and saved multiple team match points before the UM rookie converted to give the `Canes the victory.

Freshman Katie Potts (Brookfield, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) was the only Irish player to win a set, as she was cruising at No. 6, up 6-0, 2-1 against Seenauth when her match was abandoned. Miami was up a set at the other two spots, as Banada won 6-2 in the opening frame against Tefft at No. 4, and Starzyk led 6-2, 2-0 against Stastny at No. 5.

Notre Dame had an 11-match winning streak ended, losing for the first time since a 4-3 decision at Vanderbilt on March 29. The Irish also lost for the first time in 19 indoor contests this season. Though it has become extremely rare of late to be in the situation, ND continued to struggle when losing the doubles point. The Irish have now gone on to lose in 18 of the last 19 times in which they began with a 1-0 deficit (dating back to mid-2003).

Friday marked a rekindling of a rivalry that gained steam during the nine years (1996-2003) that Notre Dame and Miami were fellow members of the BIG EAST Conference. The schools met in the league tournament final at UM in each season during that span, with the Irish winning five of those contests. Overall, Notre Dame still holds a 10-6 edge in the all-time series. This was the first time that the Hurricanes were able to defeat the Irish when not playing on their home courts.

The season is not quite over for the Thompson twins, as they will compete in the individual portion of the NCAA Championships next week. Catrina will be in the singles draw (which runs Tuesday-Sunday), and the sisters will play in the doubles tournament (Wednesday-Sunday) for the third consecutive year.

[No. 7 seed] #7 Miami 4, [No. 2 seed] #2 Notre Dame 0SinglesNo. 1:  #2 Audra Cohen (M) def. #30 Catrina Thompson (ND) 6-2, 6-1No. 2:  #76 Melissa Applebaum (M) def. #113  Christian Thompson (ND) 6-3, 6-2No. 3:  * #107 Monika Dancevic (M) def. #87 Brook Buck (ND) 7-5, 6-3No. 4:  Audrey Banada (M) led Kelcy Tefft (ND) 6-2, abandonedNo. 5:  Patricia Starzyk (M) led Kristina Stastny (ND) 6-2, 2-0, abandonedNo. 6:  Katie Potts (ND) led Caren Seenauth 6-0, 2-1, abandonedOrder of Finish: 1, 2, 3*DoublesNo. 1:  * #2 Applebaum/Cohen (M) def. #5 Thompson/Thompson (ND) 8-6No. 2:  Banada/Dancevic (M) def. Buck/Tefft (ND) 8-2No. 3:  Lauren Connelly/Stastny (ND) def. Seenauth/Starzyk (M) 8-1Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1** - indicates clinching victory