April 5, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) upset a top-25 player to clinch a 4-3 victory for the second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (19-1) against its biggest rival, #9 Northwestern (13-4), Wednesday afternoon at the Courtney Tennis Center. The Irish – who snapped a seven-match losing streak against the Wildcats – will finish the regular season this weekend with a pair of home matches against new BIG EAST Conference members, taking on DePaul on Friday at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and Marquette on Sunday at Noon. Both matches will be at the Courtney Tennis Center unless weather forces them into the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
Notre Dame won the doubles point and got straight-set wins at Nos. 3, 4, and 5 in singles to earn the victory. The Wildcats – which had won six in a row, including five straight shutouts – got two-set wins at Nos. 1 and 6 in singles and then won a match tiebreaker at No. 2 to provide the final margin.
The decisive match proved to be the No. 3 tussle between Buck and Northwestern junior Alexis Prousis, who is ranked 24th in the nation and came into the match with a 7-0 career singles record against Notre Dame players. The Irish sophomore dominated most of the way, winning 11 of the first 14 games to go up a set and 5-0 in the second. Prousis – who beat both of Notre Dame’s top two players during the fall – would fight back, winning three straight games, but eventually Buck finished off a 6-3, 6-3 decision to put the Irish up 4-1 and clinch the victory for the third time in six days.
The ND sophomore also provided the winning point in Sunday’s 4-3 decision at Purdue, and she now stands 19-9 on the season, including 13-6 in dual play and a 13-match winning streak against regional players. It was the first win over a ranked player this season for Buck, who has just one higher-ranked win (then-#16 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest) in her career. It was just the second time this season that Northwestern had been defeated at No. 3, where the Wildcats were 15-1 prior to Wednesday.
The doubles point came down to the No. 3 match, where Notre Dame’s team of seniors – team captain Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) – came through with an 8-5 win against senior Jamie Peisel and freshman Nazlie Ghazal. The Irish veterans now stand 29-6 on the season, including 18-1 in dual action. Only one Notre Dame doubles team has ever notched more victories in a campaign; Becky Varnum and current assistant coach Michelle Dasso were 35-9 in 2000-01.
Not only have the Irish won the doubles point in every match this spring (the last defeat came in last year’s NCAA second round against Northwestern), but Wednesday marked just the second time this spring that the point even came down to the final contest remaining on the court. Connelly and Stastny also won in that situation at North Carolina (now ranked fifth) on Feb. 12. The ND seniors have clinched the doubles point nine times this season, which is just one off the Irish season record (10 by Dasso and Varnum in 2000-01). Connelly has 10 doubles-point clinches to her credit (having also earned a clinching win without Stastny against Eastern Michigan on March 31), which matches the ND record for an individual. Stastny remains undefeated (5-0) in her career when the doubles point is undecided with only her match remaining.
Junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), ranked fourth in the nation, won the final four games for an 8-4 triumph at No. 1 against Cristelle Grier and Feriel Esseghir in the quickest doubles match. The Thompsons have won seven in a row and are now 19-3 overall this season, including 13-2 in dual play at No. 1. Northwestern became just the second squad this spring to beat the Irish at No. 2 doubles, as Alexis Conill and Georgia Rose upset the 39th-ranked team of Buck and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.) by an 8-5 score.
Notre Dame won rather rapidly at Nos. 4 and 5 in singles. First done was Stastny, who topped Esseghir 6-3, 6-0 at No. 5. The Irish senior took over the team lead in singles victories, improving to 25-7 this season, including 16-3 in dual matches.
Tefft delivered a notable win at No. 4, topping Peisel 6-3, 6-1 to put the Irish ahead 3-0. The Wildcat senior – which provided the clinching win that ended Notre Dame’s 2003-04 season in the second round of the NCAAs – had been unbeaten in three prior singles matches against Irish foes. Tefft is now 22-5 overall this season, including 14-4 in dual play.
Ghazal got Northwestern on the board with a 6-3, 6-2 decision against freshman Katie Potts (Brookfield, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) at No. 6. It was the first time this season that Notre Dame was defeated at No. 6, ending a 23-match winning streak at that position (the previous loss came on April 10, 2005). Potts has lost just five times in her rookie campaign, but two of those have come against Ghazal, who also won in straight sets in the ITA Midwest Championships in October.
After the team outcome was determined, Grier – ranked eighth in the country – finished off a 6-2, 6-3 win against 30th-ranked Catrina Thompson at No. 1. The England native continued to own the Irish, as she has won 10 consecutive singles matches vs. ND opponents after losing in her first attempt, in the fall of her rookie season. Grier is 14-2 in dual play and 29-9 overall this season.
The only match undecided after two sets was the No. 2 contest, where Christian Thompson fell just short of handing Rose her first defeat of the spring, when the Wildcat rookie finally prevailed 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8). Rose – who beat Thompson in straight sets in the fall – built a 7-3 lead in the match tiebreaker, but then saw the ND junior rattle off five straight points to go up 8-7. The Northwestern freshman then won three in a row to improve to 29-6 overall and 17-0 in dual play. Thompson is winless in six career singles matches against Northwestern.
It was the first battle of top-10 teams staged at Notre Dame since 1996 – and just the third since the Irish became a Division I program in 1985-86. ND now stands 4-0 against top-10 foes this season, making this just the second squad in program history to win four matches against top-10 teams. The 1995-96 team did that en route to reaching the NCAA quarterfinals.
Notre Dame improved to 11-0 against Midwest Region opponents this season and has now won 12 in a row at home against the region, dating back to Northwestern’s last visit (a 4-3 Wildcat win in 2004).
It was the second time this season that the Irish ended their longest current losing streak to one team. ND had lost 12 in a row to Duke prior to a 4-3 win in Orlando, Fla., on March 15.
The Irish have now won 16 in a row at home, which is the longest home winning streak since a 24-match stretch from 1988-91.
#2 Notre Dame 4, #9 Northwestern 3SinglesNo. 1: #8 Cristelle Grier (NU) def. #30 Catrina Thompson (ND) 6-2, 6-3No. 2: #44 Georgia Rose (NU) def. #73 Christian Thompson (ND) 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8)No. 3: * Brook Buck (ND) def. #24 Alexis Prousis (NU) 6-3, 6-3No. 4: Kelcy Tefft (ND) def. Jamie Peisel (NU) 6-3, 6-1No. 5: Kristina Stastny (ND) def. Feriel Esseghir (NU) 6-3, 6-0No. 6: Nazlie Ghazal (NU) def. Katie Potts (ND) 6-3, 6-2Order of Finish: 5, 4, 6, 3*, 1, 2DoublesNo. 1: #4 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. Esseghir/Grier (NU) 8-4No. 2: Alexis Conill/Rose (NU) def. #39 Buck/Tefft (ND) 8-5No. 3: * Connelly/Stastny (ND) def. Ghazal/Peisel (NU) 8-5Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3** - indicates clinching victory