April 28, 2006
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Notre Dame women’s tennis coach Jay Louderback is the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year for the sixth time, while junior Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) was tabbed the league’s Most Outstanding Tournament Performer for the second straight year, it was announced Thursday upon tabulation of voting by the league’s 16 head coaches. For the second straight year, the Irish took up four of the six spots in singles and two of three in doubles on the BIG EAST all-tournament teams. Sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.) joined Thompson in earning mention in both, while senior Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) was a singles honoree, and junior Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) garnered doubles recognition.
Catrina Thompson was nothing short of dominant in last weekend’s BIG EAST Championship, dropping just five total games in three singles matches at No. 1 and also going unbeaten at No. 1 doubles, failing to lose more than three games in any match there. She opened up with a 6-0, 6-0 win against Katrina Elder-Bush of Rutgers in the quarterfinals, and then beat DePaul’s Beatrix Csordas 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals before topping #63 Neyssa Etienne of South Florida 6-2, 6-2 in the title match.
After losing a tight two-set match to allow Miami to clinch the 2004 BIG EAST title, Thompson has been nothing short of punishing against conference players in singles. Since then, she has played nine matches and has not allowed more than three games in any set, surrendering just 19 total games (1.1 per set). In 2005-06, Thompson has been dominating, losing just 10 total games – never more than two in a set – in six matches (12 sets) against BIG EAST competition.
The only unanimous selection to the all-tournament teams, Thompson became just the second Irish player – along with current assistant coach Michelle Dasso (2000 and ’01) – to be the BIG EAST tournament MVP on multiple occasions. This season she stands 27-10 and ranked 29th in the nation. She has been in the top 35 throughout 2005-06, peaking at a career-high 24th on Jan. 10. Thompson is 17-5 in dual action at No. 1, which puts her in a club with Dasso as the only ND players ever to win 17+ matches at No. 1 singles on multiple occasions (17-8 in 2004-05). She stands 15-2 against players from the Midwest Region.
Louderback is one of just three ND coaches – in any sport – ever to be a six-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year. (photo by Greg Owen)
Louderback has now been tabbed the BIG EAST’s top coach on six occasions, though this ended a four-year drought since being last recognized in 2001. Overall, he has been the conference coach of the year nine times since 1989, after earning the honor three times (1989, ’90, and ’93) in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Louderback has led Notre Dame to its best season in history to this point, as the Irish will head into the NCAA tournament with a 24-1 record and ranked third in the nation (after spending seven consecutive weeks at a program-high of #2). Notre Dame, ranked 22nd in the preseason, opened with 16 consecutive victories – the most to start a campaign in program history – and stands 10-1 against top-30 squads this season, including 4-0 vs. the top 10. Louderback’s squad had little trouble in last weekend’s BIG EAST Championship, as the Irish posted 4-0 victories over Rutgers and DePaul before beating the host school, 37th-ranked South Florida, 4-1 in the title match.
In his 17th season at Notre Dame with a 306-146 (.677) record and his 26th year as a collegiate coach with a 510-324 (.612) mark, Louderback ranks seventh among active NCAA Division I women’s tennis coaches in career victories and became just the 10th ever to reach 500 career wins this spring. Since the preseason of the 1992-93 campaign, Louderback’s teams have been in the national top 30 in all but two sets of ITA rankings, finishing there 13 consecutive years.
Only two other Notre Dame coaches can equal Louderback’s six BIG EAST Coach-of-the-Year Awards. Bailey Weathers picked up the honor as many times (1997, ’98, ’99, 2001, ’02, ’05) in his 10 seasons as the Irish women’s swimming and diving coach, while longtime track and field and men’s cross country mentor Joe Piane has 10 trophies to his credit, though they span four sports (men’s cross country in 2001, ’04, and ’05; men’s indoor track and field in 2003 and ’05; women’s indoor track and field in 2002 and ’06; and men’s outdoor track and field in 1999, 2000, and ’03).
Buck provided the clinching victory in the semifinals, winning 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 against DePaul’s Dunja Antunovic. She was perfect in the quarters, but was forced to abandon her quest for a “double bagel” while leading 6-0, 3-0 against Rutgers’ Dana Gordon when the Irish clinched the match. In the title match, Buck was up 6-3, 4-5 against 75th-ranked Liz Cruz of USF when ND clinched the championship. She continues to be perfect in her career in singles against BIG EAST competition, holding a 5-0 mark, with three abandoned matches. In fact, she has won all 13 sets that she has finished against the league. Overall this season, Buck is 22-9 and ranked 79th nationally after peaking at 54th in the preseason. She is 16-6 in dual play at Nos. 2 and 3 and also stands 16-2 against regional opponents. Buck leads the Irish with six match-clinching victories, including in the 4-3 wins against both Purdue and #9 Northwestern. It was the second straight year that Buck was an all-tournament pick in both singles and doubles.
Tefft was nearly untouchable in singles the first two days of the event, winning 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 against Alina Balasa of Rutgers and 6-1, 6-0 vs. DePaul’s Anjam Mihaldinec at No. 4. In the final, she dropped a 7-5 opening set to Gabriela Duch at No. 4, but was on the verge of forcing a third set – holding a 5-1 lead – when the Irish clinched victory. Tefft is 26-5 on the season, including 18-4 in dual matches (6-0 at No. 3, 12-4 at No. 4). She is unbeaten in four matches against the BIG EAST this season and has three clinching victories, including a three-set triumph in the final match remaining to give Notre Dame’s its first-ever victory (in 13 tries) against #5 Duke. Tefft earned her first career national singles ranking at 110th on March 21.
Stastny provided the clinching victory in the BIG EAST title match for the second time in her career, coming back for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win against Iciri Rai of USF at No. 5 this season after she won in doubles in the final match remaining with the score tied 3-3 against Miami as a freshman in 2003. She also clinched the opening-round contest this year with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph against Lauren Edelschein of Rutgers and was up 6-2, 2-2 vs. DePaul’s Bojana Murisic in the semis. Stastny leads the Irish in both singles victories (29-7 record) and combined singles and doubles victories (33-6 in doubles for 62-13 combined record) this season. She is 20-3 in dual singles action, playing mostly at No. 5. Stastny also is 14-3 against regional opponents and unbeaten in a trio of three-set affairs this season. This was her first selection to the all-tournament team in singles after being a doubles honoree in ’03.
The Thompson twins lost just eight total games at No. 1 doubles in the BIG EAST tournament. They won 8-2 over Balasa and Gordon of Rutgers and then knocked off a pair of ranked teams by 8-3 counts. In the semis, the sisters avenged one of their rare defeats this season by knocking off the 32nd-ranked squad of Csordas and Gergana Ganeva from DePaul. The title match saw the Thompsons beat the 10th-ranked team of Duch and Etienne of USF after posting an 8-0 win against the Bulls during the fall. The Thompson sisters have been BIG EAST all-tournament team selections in each of the past three seasons. They are 22-4 overall in 2005-06 and ranked third in the nation after reaching #1 for the second time in their careers on Jan. 10. They are 16-3 in dual play at No. 1 and delivered Notre Dame’s first-ever title in a collegiate grand-slam event last fall, winning the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships.
Buck and Tefft, the No. 2 doubles team for the Irish, clinched the doubles point in the final two rounds of the tournament, winning 8-2 over Antunovic and Mihaldinec of DePaul and 8-4 vs. Cruz and Rai of USF. The duo was up 7-2 vs. Rutgers’ Elder-Bush and Ketevan Shmakova in the quarterfinals when their match was abandoned just two points shy of completion. The Notre Dame duo – which combined to win five USTA super national championships in the juniors – stands 31-5 on the season (two defeats in tiebreakers) and ranked 47th in the nation after being as high as 29th on two occasions. They have been outstanding this spring, with a 21-3 record in dual play, including 5-1 filling in for the Thompsons at No. 1. In five matches against the BIG EAST this season, they lost just 10 total games.
Rounding out the all-tournament team in singles were Etienne and Courtney Vernon, while Duch and Etienne were mentioned in doubles.
Notre Dame has earned an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Division I Championship, which will see the first two rounds played on campus sites from May 12-13 and the final four rounds contested at Stanford University from May 18-21. The NCAA selection show will take place on Wednesday, May 3, at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPNews (DirecTV channel 207, Dish Network channel 142). Fans can also hear the audio feed of ESPNews on XM Radio and SIRIUS Radio.