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#23 Irish Fall At #6 Northwestern In NCAA Second Round

May 14, 2005

EVANSTON, Ill. – The 23rd-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (15-10) was eliminated from the NCAA Championship Saturday afternoon, falling in a 4-0 decision in the second round to #6 Northwestern (26-2), the tournament’s No. 5 seed, on the Wildcats’ home courts, the Vandy Christie Tennis Center. The Irish dropped a tiebreaker in the final match on court to lose the doubles point and could not recover, losing in the second round for the third consecutive year and to the Wildcats in that match for the second time in as many seasons.

Northwestern prevailed in the bottom two doubles positions and then got three straight-set victories in singles to clinch the win, its 15th in a row. The three abandoned matches were all competitive, as Notre Dame was up a set in one, another was in a third set, and the other appeared to be headed to one.

Sophomore twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) provided Notre Dame’s only victory, turning in an upset of the #2-ranked doubles team in college tennis.

The doubles point proved to be decisive, and it came down to a tiebreaker at No. 2. Northwestern’s team of Alexis Prousis and Kristi Roemer, who are ranked 52nd in the nation, eventually prevailed 7-4 against junior Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and freshman Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) of the Irish to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable. The match was back and forth the entire way, as three times one side got a service break only to be broken back in the very next game. Notre Dame did that to go up 5-3, but the Wildcats came back immediately. They then converted on their second break point on Connelly’s serve at 7-7 to get a chance to serve out the match. But Prousis was unsuccessful in that endeavor, as the Irish broke at love, getting a pair of volley winners from Connelly and eventually a Buck forehand volley that was too good for Prousis on match point.

Roemer’s return on the tiebreaker’s initial point found the net to put ND up 1-0, but the Wildcats would then win four straight to take a three-point advantage. Notre Dame fought back to within 5-4, but then a backhand volley winner from Prousis gave Northwestern its first match point. Roemer served, and Connelly’s forehand return crosscourt sailed wide, ending a match that last 1:20 and giving the `Cats a 1-0 lead for the 24th time in 27 matches this season. It was the second time in a month that the teams had to go to a tiebreaker to decide their match. On April 14, Buck and Connelly won in a 5-2 Irish loss. Notre Dame dropped the doubles point just six times in 25 matches this spring, but two of those instances were against Northwestern.

Prousis and Roemer improved to 19-5 this season, while the Irish team finished at 27-12. On Friday, they became just the second Irish team ever to post 27+ victories in a season, though the Thompsons joined that group on Saturday.

The twins, ranked #6 in the nation, registered an 8-3 victory at No. 1 against Audra Cohen and Cristelle Grier. It avenged an 8-4 loss in last month’s dual match against the team that has been ranked #1 for most of this spring, but has now dropped three in a row (after losing just twice in its first 36 matches). After failing to break serve in six return games against Cohen and Grier last month, the Thompsons broke in four of six games on Saturday, including on each of the three service games by the elder Wildcat.

The Thompsons moved to 27-6 on the season and 19-4 in dual action at No. 1. It was the third time this season the sisters defeated a team ranked among the top three in the nation and the highest-ranked win for an Irish squad since they upset then-#1 Dianne Hollands/Maja Mlakar of Arizona on Oct. 8 in the quarterfinals of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. The Thompsons also improved to 19-5 away from home this season and 14-3 outdoors. They are also 4-1 against higher-ranked teams. It was the second time in as many years that they beat a Northwestern doubles team ranked #2 in the country, as they topped Grier and Jessica Rush last April in a tiebreaker in dual-match action. Both the Thompsons and Cohen and Grier are among the eight seeded teams at the NCAA Doubles Championship, which is slated for May 24-28 at the University of Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

Feriel Esseghir and Valerie Vladea beat Irish senior captain Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and junior Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) 8-4 at No. 3 to put the doubles point in the hands of the No. 2 teams. The Wildcats pair, which also beat the same ND team by a 9-7 score last month, is now 11-0 since first being paired together.

First off in singles was Cohen, who is ranked fourth in the nation after being #1 earlier this spring. She avenged a 6-2, 6-2 loss last month to Catrina Thompson with a 6-0, 6-3 victory at No. 1. Thompson remains the only player to hand the freshman phenom – now 46-5 on the year – a straight-set loss as a collegian. Cohen had won 11 in a row against players other than her Irish nemesis prior to Saturday.

Vladea put Northwestern within a point of victory, beating Lauren Connelly 6-3, 6-2 at No. 4. It was the 13th consecutive win for the Wildcat, who also beat the Irish junior last month in straight sets. Vladea is 34-8 this season, including 23-3 in dual action.

Just moments later, 76th-ranked Prousis finally converted on her fourth team match point to beat Christian Thompson 6-2, 6-4 at No. 3 and put Northwestern into the round of 16 for the fifth time in the last six years, where it will face 12th-seeded Clemson on Thursday in Athens, Ga. Prousis has not lost since Feb. 19, winning 18 in a row to improve to 36-7, 24-3 in dual action.

In her final collegiate match, Sarah Jane Connelly appeared to be headed to a victory, up 6-1, 5-5 against Jamie Peisel when her match was abandoned. She finished her career holding the Irish record for doubles-point-clinching victories (22).

Buck, ranked 87th, and 21st-ranked Grier were just about to begin a third set when their match was abandoned. The rookie won the opening set 6-4, but Grier – who has won nine straight against ND – won the second set 6-2. It was a battle of strong return games, as the players at one point broke serve in eight consecutive games.

At No. 5, Andrea Yung won the opening set 6-4 against Stastny, but the Irish junior was up 4-1 in the second when the match was abandoned. It was the fifth time the two had hooked up in dual-match action, with both having prevailed twice previously.

The season is not over for the Thompsons, who will head to Athens, Ga., next week for the NCAA individual tournaments. Catrina Thompson will begin play in the singles event on May 23, while she and her sister will be in the doubles championship, which commences the following day.

[No. 5 seed] #6 Northwestern 4, [No. 17-32 seed] #23 Notre Dame 0SinglesNo. 1:  #4 Audra Cohen (NU) def. #44 Catrina Thompson (ND) 6-0, 6-3No. 2:  #87 Brook Buck (ND) vs. #21 Cristelle Grier (NU) 6-4, 2-6, 0-0, abandonedNo. 3:  #76 Alexis Prousis (NU) def. Christian Thompson (ND) 6-2, 6-4No. 4:  Valerie Vladea (NU) def. Lauren Connelly (ND) 6-3, 6-2No. 5:  Andrea Yung (NU) led Kristina Stastny (ND) 6-4, 1-4, abandonedNo. 6:  Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) led Jamie Peisel (NU) 6-1, 5-5, abandonedOrder of Finish: 1, 4, 3*DoublesNo. 1:  #6 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. #2 Cohen/Grier (NU) 8-3No. 2:  #52 Prousis/Kristi Roemer (NU) def. Buck/L. Connelly (ND) 9-8 (7-4)No. 3:  Feriel Esseghir/Vladea (NU) def. S.J. Connelly/Stastny (ND) 8-4Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2*