Shannon Mathews and the Irish hope to secure the program's fourth straight BIG EAST title this weekend as they play host to the 2011 tournament.

Irish Look For Fourth Straight Conference Crown At 2011 BIG EAST Championship

April 27, 2011

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NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 24th-ranked Irish women’s tennis team will try for their fourth straight and 11th overall conference title this weekend as they host the BIG EAST Championships for the second consecutive year at the Courtney Tennis Center and Leeper Park Tennis Center.

Tournament action gets underway Thursday at 9:00 a.m. with eighth-seeded Georgetown taking on ninth-seeded Cincinnati and seventh-seeded Syracuse facing 10th-seeded St. John’s.

Notre Dame enters the 12-team tournament as the top seed for the 15th time in the past 16 seasons. The Irish will take on the winner of the Georgetown-Cincinnati match at 9:00 a.m. (ET) Friday at the Leeper Park Tennis Center in quarterfinal action. The semifinals begin Saturday at Noon., while the championship match gets underway Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Both semifinal matches, as well as the championship match, will be played at Courtney Tennis Center.

2010 BIG EAST Women's Tennis ChampionshipCourtney Tennis Center - Leeper Park Tennis CenterSouth Bend, Ind.Second Round - Friday, April, 29#1 Notre Dame (13-9) vs. #8 Georgetown/#9 Cincinnati 9:00 a.m. (ET)Semifinals - Saturday, April 30, Noon (ET)Finals - Sunday, May 1, 9:00 a.m. (ET)

The BIG EAST Championship: All 16 members of the BIG EAST Conference field teams in women’s tennis but the league does not require round-robin competition during the season. The top 12 teams, as selected by the conference based on national rankings and head-to-head results, earn invitations to the league championship, a single-elimination team tournament with the winner gaining the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Championship. Play begins Thursday at 9:00 a.m. with eighth-seeded Georgetown taking on ninth-seeded Cincinnati and seventh-seeded Syracuse facing 10th-seeded St. John’s.

The Irish in the BIG EAST Championships: Since joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96, Notre Dame has advanced to the championship match of the league tournament every season and earned 10 conference titles. The Irish won titles in their first two BIG EAST Championships, before falling to Miami as a runner-up in 1998. Notre Dame won three titles from 1999-2003, then returned as back-to-back champs in 2005 and 2006. After a runner-up finish to South Florida in 2007, Notre Dame has now won three consecutive championships from 2008-10.

The Irish have been the top seed heading into the tournament in 15 of their 16 seasons as members of the BIG EAST. In 2003, Notre Dame was the No. 2 seed. Irish head coach Jay Louderback has been named the conference Coach of the Year on eight occasions, while Notre Dame student-athletes have been tabbed the league championship’s Most Outstanding Player seven times. Notre Dame had 13 different players earn a place on the BIG EAST All-Tournament team when the conference announced the honor from 2003-2008, while six Irish players have been named to the All-BIG EAST Team since it began in ’09.

In 23 early-round matches (first round through semifinals), Notre Dame is undefeated, having registered 24 shutouts. Overall, the Irish are 35-5 all-time in the BIG EAST Championship.

The 2010 BIG EAST Championship: The Irish won their third straight and 10th overall conference title last season. As the tournament’s top-seeded team, the Irish earned a bye in the first round, before dispatching West Virginia, 4-0, in the quarterfinals. Notre Dame earned its 15th-straight trip to the tournament title match with a 5-0 victory over Syracuse in the semifinals.

Notre Dame met regional-rival DePaul in the tournament’s final match for the second straight year, after having met for just the first time the year previous since the Irish joined the conference in ’95-96. The Irish made quick work of the Blue Demons, claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 3 and 1 doubles, before claiming three straight victories at No. 4, 5 and 1 singles, respectively. Kristy Frilling, the third ranked player at the time, clinched the match with her 6-1, 6-2 victory over #79 Anna Redesci.

The Irish won four major conference awards and had five student-athletes named to the all-BIG EAST team for the second consecutive year, announced during the league banquet held just before the tournament began. Sophomore Kristy Frilling was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Chrissie McGaffigan earned freshman of the year honors. Senior Kali Krisik garnered BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player, while Jay Louderback was named conference Coach of the Year for the eighth time in his career. Joining Frilling, McGaffigan and Krisik on the all-conference team were senior Cosmina Ciobanu and sophomore Shannon Mathews.

Notre Dame vs. the Field: Notre Dame is 58-3 all-time against teams in the 2010 BIG EAST Championship with the only losses coming at the hands of South Florida in the 2007 conference tournament final as well as in 2011, and Marquette in 1989. The Irish have played every team in this year’s tournament at least once before. Overall, Notre Dame is 61-3 against current members of the BIG EAST Conference.

Notre Dame is 2-1 against BIG EAST foes this season. The Irish lost their first BIG EAST matchup against USF, 5-2, on Mar. 15 at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts, before topping Marquette, 6-1, on April 21 at the Helfaer Tennis Stadium. Notre Dame toppled DePaul, 6-1, in its final regular-season match on April 23 at the Courtney Tennis Center.

Running the Gauntlet: The Irish tennis team faced one of the most difficult schedules in recent history, as 12 of their 22 opponents on the season entered their matchup with the Irish ranked in the top 25 nationally, according to the ITA. Notre Dame amassed a record of 4-8 in those matchups, including claiming a win over then ninth-ranked Virginia (4-0) to claim the inaugural women’s Blue Gray Classic championship.

In addition to the 12 teams ranked within the top 25, five additional opponents were ranked within the ITA top 50 with two more ranked just outside of that – Wake Forest (#54) and Utah (#51). In those seven additional matches, the Irish put together a record of 6-1.

Irish Head Coach: Jay Louderback is in his 22nd season at Notre Dame with a 426-179 (.704) record and in his 32nd year as a collegiate coach with a 630-357 (.638) mark. He ranks third, behind only Indiana’s Lin Loring and Pepperdine’s Gualberto Escudero, among active NCAA Division I women’s coaches in career victories and became just the 10th collegiate women’s coach ever to register 500 wins (4-3 win at Texas A&M on March 18, 2006). Louderback’s Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 18 seasons and have won 10 BIG EAST titles since joining the conference in 1995-96. Since the preseason of the 1992-93 season, Louderback’s teams have been in the national top 30 in all but two sets of ITA rankings and reached an all-time high of No. 2 (a total of 17 different times over the last five years).

After taking over a program looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance, Louderback has helped Notre Dame to the NCAAs 18 times in the last 19 years (which only 10 other schools have done), including nine appearances in the round of 16, four quarterfinal finishes and back-to-back semifinal appearances in 2009 and 2010. Louderback, a four-time Midwest Region Coach of the Year, has been honored as the BIG EAST Coach of the Year eight times in 15 seasons. In his time at Notre Dame, Louderback’s players have earned All-America honors 27 times, won six national ITA awards and earned 27 invitations to the NCAA Singles Championship and 19 to the NCAA doubles tournament. In the fall of 2005, he delivered the first individual title at an ITA grand slam event, when juniors Catrina Thompson and Christian Thompson won the doubles crown at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. The feat was repeated in 2007 as Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft won the doubles title at the ITA National Indoor Championships.

His players have dominated the University awards, leading all sports in both Byron V. Kanaley awards (10) and Francis Patrick O’Connor awards (seven). His family was honored with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Family of the Year Award in 2002 and, in 2006, Louderback was inducted into the USTA Missouri Valley Tennis Hall of Fame. The Arkansas City, Kan., native and 1976 graduate of Wichita State arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 1989-90 season after coaching for seven years at his alma mater and three years (men and women) at Iowa State.