May 23, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. – The University of Notre Dame swept the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) national women’s coaching awards, as Jay Louderback was named the Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year and Michelle Dasso was the ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year, it was announced Monday evening at Stanford University. It was the first time since 1985 that the Irish women’s tennis team was honored with a national coaching award.
Louderback and Dasso have led Notre Dame to its best season in the 30-year varsity history of the program. The Irish went 27-2 in dual matches and are currently tied for second in the ITA national rankings. It is the eighth time in the last nine weeks that Notre Dame has appeared at #2 in the rankings, after the Irish had never been higher than fifth prior to this season. ND, ranked 22nd in the preseason, started 16-0 (its best-ever start) and posted its second-highest win total ever (the 1985-86 squad finished 28-6 and did not qualify for the NCAAs in the program’s first year on the Division I level). The Irish also suffered the second-fewest defeats in program history; the 1979 (fall only) team finished with a 9-1 mark in just the fourth year of varsity competition. Notre Dame earned its highest-ever seeding (No. 2) and matched its deepest run in the NCAA Division I Championship, falling in the quarterfinals. Among the other season highlights have been a 4-1 record against top-10 teams, defeating Duke for the first time ever (after 12 defeats – that also matched the highest-ranked win, #5, in program history), snapping a seven-match losing streak against Northwestern, topping North Carolina for the first time since 2001, beating Tennessee for the first time since 1998, and earning an all-time high NCAA seeding of #2. Additionally, the fall saw Notre Dame junior twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) win the doubles title in the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships to deliver the first-ever Irish title in an ITA grand slam.
Dasso won her second national ITA award.
Since taking over at Notre Dame in 1989-90, Louderback has regularly received accolades. On nine occasions (three times in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, six times in the BIG EAST Conference including in 2006), he has been recognized as the top coach in his conference. Four times he was tabbed the ITA Midwest Region Coach of the Year, but this is the first national honor for him. Louderback holds a 309-148 (.676) record in 17 seasons at Notre Dame, as well as a 513-326 (.611) mark in 27 years overall as a head coach (after making stops at Wichita State and Iowa State.
Notre Dame’s Sharon Petro was the Division II National Coach of the Year in 1985, the final season before the Irish moved to Division I. She helped that Notre Dame squad go 25-5 and advance all the way to the Division II NCAA title match, losing to Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Dasso – in her third year since ending her pro career to join Louderback’s staff – became just the second Irish assistant to win the ITA’s regional honor, as well as the first to be nationally recognized. It is her second ITA national award, though, after winding up her playing career in 2001 by being tabbed the ITA National Senior Player of the Year.
All that remains in the 2005-06 season are the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. Catrina Thompson, ranked 30th, will commence play in the former on Wednesday at 10 a.m. (PT) at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center against #74 Margarita Karnaukhova of Sacramento State, while the twins – seeded third in the event – will begin action in the doubles tournament on Thursday.