May 9, 2008
After a long, rain-delayed afternoon at the University of Miami’s Neil Schiff Tennis Center, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team outlasted a game Florida International squad to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Golden Panthers dropped the doubles point to the Irish, but rallied to win four of six first set in singles. Kelcy Tefft earned a come-from behind win at No.1 to clinch the opening round win.
The match began with only the top two doubles matches taking place on separate courts as Miami and Quinnipiac finished play in their opening round dual on the stadium courts. The Irish quickly captured the doubles point for the 17th consecutive match. The nation’s #3 doubles team of Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft tied the school record for doubles wins in a season with 36 as they rolled past Liset Brito and Priscilla Castillo, 8-1. The Notre Dame pair dominated the 60th ranked team from Florida International on their way to their 19th win in the last 20 matches. They are now a remarkable 36-5 this season.
Colleen Rielley and Cosmina Ciobanu continued their hot streak as they won for the 14th time in 15 decisions with an 8-4 win over Egle Petrauskaite and Maria Spenceley at No. 2. Ciobanu and Rielley currently have the best winning percentage over the course of a season of any team in Notre Dame history as they have posted a 21-2 mark.
The Golden Panthers clawed their way into the match with solid singles play, as they grabbed the advantage in four matches. Luckily for the Irish, Ciobanu and Rielley play two solid matches at No. 3 and 4 to secure two quick singles points for Notre Dame.
Rielley cruised past Castillo 6-1, 6-2 at No.4 in a match that was never in doubt. The win gave the Irish a 2-0 lead, as Rielley won for the fifth match in a row. She is now 23-13 on the season and 17-10 in spring dual play.
Ciobanu extended her team-best winning streak to ten matches with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Marijana Cutuk at No. 3. In two tightly contested sets that were decided by a single break, the Notre Dame sophomore prevailed to improve her record to 28-15 on the season. She also extended her NCAA winning streak to three matches. Ciobanu has never lost an NCAA match in her two year career.
The Golden Panthers notched their lone point of the contest at No. 6 when Spenceley won the second set in a tiebreaker over Katie Potts to earn the victory. After a lopsided first set that went the way of Florida International, Potts closed the gap in the second. She could not complete the comeback, however as she fell 6-2, 7-6. Potts fell to 21-11 this season and suffered the first NCAA loss of her career in four contests.
The Irish were on the brink of victory at 3-1, but had lost the first set on all three of the remaining matches. Buck and Tefft had each forced a third set in their matches, and Krisik battled deep into the second set in her contest. It was Tefft, Notre Dame’s lone representative in the NCAA singles tournament, that prevailed with a 6-2 win over Petrauskaite in the third set to send the Irish to the second round for the sixth straight season. Notre Dame’s No. 1 player lost the first set 6-4, but regained control in the second with a 6-1 win. The third set win capped the comeback effort, her third such win of the season. It was the first three-set match Tefft had played since a loss back on February 24th at North Carolina.
The final two matches at No. 2 and No. 5 were suspended after Tefft’s win, both in third sets and both very close. Buck trailed Brito 4-3 in the final set after losing the first in the tiebreaker and winning 6-1 in the second. Meanwhile Krisik was up 2-1 in the third against Pazo after dropping the first in a tiebreaker and winning the second 6-4, capturing the final two games of that set.
Notre Dame will have little time to celebrate Friday’s win as they will take to the court just over 12 hours after winning the first round match. The Irish will battle the host Hurricanes of Miami Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The two schools will renew a rivalry that flared up in the late 90’s when the two schools met for the Big East championship every season (1996-2004) that the teams shared membership in the conference. The latest chapter of the rivalry was written in 2006 when the Irish were upset by the Hurricanes 4-0 in the NCAA quarterfinals. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Miami 10-6.