April 15, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. – Sophomore Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) became the first collegiate player to post a straight-set victory (6-2, 6-2) over Wildcat freshman phenom Audra Cohen, currently ranked #3 in the nation after being #1 earlier this spring, but the 26th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (12-9) dropped a 5-2 decision at #3 Northwestern (18-2) Thursday afternoon at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in the final regular-season match for the Irish.
Northwestern claimed a hotly-contested doubles point and ended up with straight-set singles victories at Nos. 2, 3, and 4 and a match-tiebreaker triumph at No. 5. Joining Thompson in providing points for the Irish was senior captain Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.), while junior Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and freshman Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) combined for a doubles victory.
The highlight was Thompson defeating Cohen at No. 1 singles 6-2, 6-2. The Northwestern freshman began her collegiate career with 23 consecutive victories, including the singles title in last fall’s ITA All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate grand slam. She ascended to the national #1 ranking and came into Thursday with a season record of 39-4, with all of her defeats coming in three-set affairs. In fact, she had lost just eight total sets in her previous 43 collegiate contests. But Thompson was up to the task, using patience and variety to keep Cohen off balance and taking advantage of her break opportunities.
The Notre Dame sophomore improved to 10-8 against nationally-ranked players this season and 20-8 overall. She is 14-7 in dual action at No. 1, and her highest-ranked career victory had been a win against #26 Aniela Mojzis of North Carolina in February. Thompson is now 10-2 against Midwest Region opponents, and she became the first regional foe to top Cohen.
Connelly beat Alexis Conill 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 at No. 6 to make the score 3-2. She is now 14-8 on the season and 5-5 in dual action.
Trailing 3-2, Notre Dame still had chances to complete a comeback, with the Nos. 2 and 5 singles matches remaining. In the former, Buck was taking on 16th-ranked Cristelle Grier. The native of England won the first set and sprinted to a 5-2 advantage in the second, but the Irish rookie saved multiple team match points and fought all the way to a second-set tiebreaker. She then saved two more match points in the tiebreaker, but Grier eventually came through with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory. It was her ninth consecutive singles victory against Notre Dame players.
In the final match, junior Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) rallied to split sets, but then dropped a match tiebreaker against Andrea Yung at No. 5, losing 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8). It was the fourth time the two played in dual action, and both have now triumphed on two occasions.
Northwestern became just the fifth team in 21 matches this season to win the doubles point against the Irish, coming out winners at Nos. 1 and 3. The latter contest would prove to be a pivotal one, as the NU pair of Valerie Vladea and Feriel Esseghir eventually registered a 9-7 victory over Stastny and Sarah Jane Connelly.
Buck and Connelly won a tiebreaker to upset the 36th-ranked team of Alexis Prousis and Kristi Roemer, 8-7. The Notre Dame team topped a nationally-ranked foe for the second time in less than a week, after having beaten #48 Megan Muth and Amy Wei of William & Mary on Saturday. Connelly and Buck are 25-10 on the season, including 14-7 in dual action at No. 2.
The No. 1 match featured two of the top five teams in college tennis. The nation’s #1-ranked squad, Grier and Cohen, prevailed 8-4 against fourth-ranked Catrina and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.). The match featured nine consecutive holds of serve at the start, but the Wildcat team broke serve in the 10th game and that was the difference in the contest, as it rode that momentum to victory.
First off the court in singles was Valerie Vladea, who topped Lauren Connelly 6-0, 6-0 at No. 4. Alexis Prousis, ranked 66th in the nation, then made the score 3-0 by topping Christian Thompson 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3.
Notre Dame will begin the postseason next week, when it takes part in the BIG EAST Conference Championship, slated for Thursday through Saturday, April 21-23, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The Irish, who have been in the tournament’s title match in all nine years since becoming a league member and have won five championships, figure to be the event’s top seed, as they are the only conference school in the national rankings.
#3 Northwestern 5, #26 Notre Dame 2
No. 1: #37 Catrina Thompson (ND) def. #3 Audra Cohen (NU), 6-2, 6-2
No. 2: #16 Cristelle Grier (NU) def. Brook Buck (ND), 6-3, 7-6 (5)
No. 3: #66 Alexis Prousis (NU) def. Christian Thompson (ND), 6-1, 6-1
No. 4: Valerie Vladea (NU) def. Lauren Connelly (ND), 6-0, 6-0
No. 5: Andrea Yung (NU) def. Kristina Stastny (ND), 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (8)
No. 6: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) def. Alexis Conill (NU), 7-6 (5), 6-3
Order of finish for singles: 4, 3, 1, 6, 2*, 5
No. 1: #1 Cohen/Grier (NU) def. #4 Thompson/Thompson (ND), 8-4
No. 2: Buck/L. Connelly (ND) def. #36 Prousis/Roemer (NU) 8-7
No. 3: Vladea/Feriel Esseghir (NU) def. S.J. Connelly/Stastny (ND), 9-7
Order of finish for doubles: 1, 3*, 2