May 4, 2005
The 23rd-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (14-9), champion of the BIG EAST Conference and thus an automatic qualifier, will make yet another postseason visit to arch-rival and #6-ranked Northwestern (24-2), its third in the last four years. The Irish – who have earned NCAA invitations in each of the last 10 years – will open play at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill., on Friday, May 13 against #46 Iowa (14-9). The Wildcats, the No. 5 overall seed in the tournament, will take on Valparaiso (15-4) in first-round action, with the winners squaring off in the second round on Saturday, May 14. Times have not yet been announced.
It will be a familiar situation for three of the teams, as all but Valpo – making its first-ever trip to the NCAAs – took part in first- and second-round action at Northwestern in 2004. Last year, the host prevailed 4-1 against the Irish – 4-1 winners in the first round against the Hawkeyes – to reach the round of 16, where the `Cats fell 4-1 to Duke.
The teams also are familiar with each other from this season. Northwestern won 5-2 against Notre Dame at the Christie Tennis Center on April 14 in the Irish regular-season finale. ND prevailed 7-0 against Iowa on Feb. 27 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Wildcats beat the Hawkeyes by the same score on April 9 at home.
The site will feature three automatic qualifiers, as Northwestern got in by virtue of its seventh consecutive Big Ten Conference tournament championship, and Valparaiso claimed its first-ever Midwestern Collegiate Conference title. Iowa was one of the second-lowest-ranked team to earn at-large admittance, next to #47 San Diego State.
The winner of the second-round contest will advance to Athens, Ga., for the final four rounds of competition, slated for May 19-22 at the University of Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex. In the round of 16, the Evanston site’s victor will face the winner of the subregional hosted by the No. 12 seed, #11 Clemson, which also features #58 Furman, #20 William & Mary, and #34 Wisconsin. That match will be at Noon (EDT) on Thursday, May 19.
Iowa was third in the Big Ten in regular-season play with a 7-3 record, but fell to Michigan in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Northwestern won the regular-season league title with a 10-0 record and then claimed the Big Ten’s automatic bid by downing the Wolverines 4-1 in the tournament final, its 13th consecutive victory (dating back to a 4-2 loss at #24 California on March 22). Valparaiso was unbeaten in 10 league matches during the season to take the MCC title, and the Crusaders then beat Southern Utah 4-1 to win the conference tournament and extend their winning streak to 13.
The visiting teams will face a stiff challenge, as the Wildcats were 12-0 at home this season and will carry a 30-match home winning streak into the NCAAs. Northwestern also has won 27 in a row against Midwest Region opponents (all of which ND, UI, and Valpo are), as well as 49 straight at home vs. regional foes, dating back to a loss against Illinois in 2000.
Notre Dame also played at Northwestern in 2002, when it lost 4-2 to Wisconsin in the opening round.
The Irish and Hawkeyes will meet for the third time in the NCAA tournament, as Iowa pulled off a 5-4 upset of host Notre Dame in the second round of the `99 championship before last year’s match. The teams have met on 10 occasions in the regular season, with the Irish winning every time.
Northwestern is the most-common opponent in the history of Notre Dame’s varsity program, with the teams having played on 27 occasions. The `Cats have won 19 of those matches, including each of the last six – though three of them were by 4-3 scores. The only NCAA matchup prior to ’04 was a 6-2 Irish victory in 1998.
Valparaiso was a regular opponent of Notre Dame during the infancy of its varsity program, as the schools met in each of the first seven seasons of Irish women’s tennis, but have not met since then. ND leads the series 5-2, with the last meeting a 9-0 victory at home in the fall of the 1982-83 season.
Six singles players and three doubles teams listed in the national rankings will be at the Northwestern subregional: #4 Audra Cohen and #21 Cristelle Grier of Northwestern, #44 Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) of Notre Dame, #76 Alexis Prousis of Northwestern, #87 Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) of Notre Dame, #104 Meg Racette of Iowa, #2 Cohen/Grier, #6 Thompson/Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), and #52 Prousis/Kristi Roemer.
Of the 21 teams on Notre Dame’s regular-season schedule, 16 of them earned berths in the NCAA Championship: Vanderbilt (No. 4 seed), Northwestern (No. 5), Texas (No. 11), North Carolina (No. 13), Brigham Young (No. 15), Tennessee (No. 16 seed), Duke, Harvard, Indiana, Iowa, Long Beach State, Michigan, UNLV, Wake Forest, William & Mary, and Wisconsin. The Irish were 7-9 against those teams.
The Irish have appeared in 12 of the last 13 NCAA tounaments, reaching the round of 16 on five occasions and the 1996 quarterfinals. Only 10 other schools have been invited to 12+ NCAA tournaments since 1993: Arizona State, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Pepperdine, USC, Stanford, Texas, and UCLA. The group of schools that have been in each of the last 10 NCAAs has just 19 members: all the above plus Fresno State, Louisiana State, Miami, Northwestern, South Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.
For the sixth consecutive year, the NCAA Championship features a field of 64 teams, consisting of 31 automatic-qualifying conference champions and 33 at-large selections. The first and second rounds will take place May 13-14 at 16 campus sites.
The draws for the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships will be released Thursday on www.ncaasports.com. They will take place May 23-28 in Athens, with 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams competing. Since 1989, Notre Dame competitors have garnered 19 invitations to the national singles tournament and 11 to the doubles event.
There will be televised coverage of the NCAA Championships, as ESPN2 will broadcast the team title match on a tape-delayed basis, airing on Thursday, May 26 at 3 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. in South Bend). Additionally, the Tennis Channel will show the singles final on Saturday, June 4 at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. in South Bend) and the doubles final that same night at 10 p.m. EDT (9 p.m. in South Bend).