May 1, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 23rd-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team, for the fourth straight year and 11th time since joining the conference, captured the BIG EAST Conference Championship. The Irish held off a late rally from the Bulls on Sunday at the Courtney Tennis Center to secure a 4-2 decision over the team that earlier in the year defeated them 5-2.
Junior Shannon Mathews (Birmingham, Mich.) was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after posting a 3-0 record in singles and clinching every match along the way at No. 2 over the weekend.
After a sluggish start in doubles competition, the Irish rebounded down the stretch to pull out the always-crucial first point of the match. The freshman combination of Jennifer Kellner (Smithtown, N.Y.) and Julie Sabacinski (Plantation, Fla.) continued their strong tournament play, dispatching Alessandra Bonte and Kate Parker (8-3) at No. 3 doubles. The Irish tandem went a perfect 3-0 over the weekend and was the first team to finish in each of the team’s three matches.
Notre Dame then turned to No. 2 doubles to clinch the point. After trailing in the match 6-5, senior Kristen Rafael (Grand Prairie, Texas) and sophomore Chrissie McGaffigan (Davenport, Iowa) captured the next three games to finish off an 8-6 win over Irene Rehberger and Ecaterina Vasenina.
For the third straight day, the junior duo of Kristy Frilling (Sidney, Ohio) and Mathews did not complete their match as the point was already in hand. The Irish team trailed early to the USF twosome of Loreto Alonso Martinez and Janette Bejkova 6-3, but battled back to square the match 6-6 at the time it was abandoned.
The Irish then stormed out of the gates in singles, setting up what appeared to be an easy run at the fourth straight championship. Rafael did not drop a single game in her match at No. 4, taking down Alonso Martinez, 6-0, 6-0. The senior improves to 6-0 since moving to the No. 4 court and is now 11-9 overall this season.
McGaffigan then pushed the contest to match point, taking down Bonte at No. 5 singles, 6-4, 6-3. The sophomore has now won four consecutive matches and is 8-4 overall at court No. 5.
The Bulls did not give in, however, coming back to claim the next two singles points and shrink the margin to one. At. No. 1 singles Frilling could not outlast Rehberger, dropping a 7-5, 6-3 decision. The loss is only the third of the year in dual action for the Irish junior, dropping her to 18-3 on the year.
Shortly after, Kellner fell to Bejkova (6-4, 6-4) at No. 3 singles. The Irish freshman falls to 18-5 on the season including 7-3 since making the move to the No. 3 court.
With the match tightening up with only two courts remaining in action, Mathews fought through a difficult second set to claim a straight-sets victory over Vasenina, 6-4, 7-5. The junior trailed in the first set 4-1 before rattling off five consecutive games to gain the one set advantage. Then, with the second set even at 4-4, the two competitors traded three consecutive breaks of serve to give Mathews a 6-5 edge and a chance to serve out the match. The final game saw several deuces, but Mathews eventually pulled out the title-clinching point after hitting a winner down the left baseline.
The final match on court was then abandoned with Sabacinski leading Parker at No. 6 singles, 6-1, 6-6 (3-3).
The Irish are now 11-5 all-time in BIG EAST Championship finals. Notre Dame is 1-1 against USF this season and improved to 3-1 against the Bulls in conference final matchups. The last time the two teams met in the BIG EAST Championship, the Irish posted a 4-1 victory in ’08.
Notre Dame ends the tournament with an overall record of 16-9. The team now awaits their fate for the NCAA Championship with the tournament selection show taking place on Tuesday.
#23 Notre Dame 4, #42 USF 2
Doubles Competition1. Kristy Frilling/Shannon Mathews (ND) vs. Loreto Alonso Martinez/Janette Bejlkova (USF) 6-6, unfinished2. Chrissie McGaffigan/Kristen Rafael (ND) def. Irene Rehberger/Ecaterina Vasenina (USF) 8-63. Jennifer Kellner/Julie Sabacinski (ND) def. Alessandra Bonte/Kate Parker (USF) 8-3
Singles Competition1. Irene Rehberger (USF) def. Kristy Frilling (ND) 7-5, 6-32. Shannon Mathews (ND) def. Ecaterina Vasenina (USF) 6-4, 7-53. Janette Bejlkova (USF) def. Jennifer Kellner (ND) 6-4, 6-44. Kristen Rafael (ND) def. Loreto Alonso Martinez (USF) 6-0, 6-05. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) def. Alessandra Bonte (USF) 6-4, 6-36. Julie Sabacinski (ND) vs. Kate Parker (USF) 6-1, 6-6 (3-3), unfinished
Match ResultsNotre Dame: 16-9; National ranking: #23USF: 11-11; National ranking: #42Order of finish: Singles (4,5,1,3,2); Doubles (3,2)