March 4, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After the score was tied 2-2, the 17th-ranked Illinois women’s tennis team (6-2) won a trio of three-setters to defeat #19 Notre Dame 5-2 Thursday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Illini swept the doubles matches and then took four of six in singles to snap an 11-match losing skid against the Irish (7-2), who had won seven in a row heading into the tilt. Notre Dame senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) provided the highlight for the Irish by upsetting #14 Jennifer McGaffigan at No. 1 singles.
The outcome was decided by third sets in the Nos. 2, 4, and 5 matches. In a battle of Nevada natives, Illinois senior Tiffany Eklov of Reno won a three-set decision against Irish freshman Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) for the second time this season. Eklov, 7-1 this spring at No. 2, prevailed 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 on Thursday after posting a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph in last fall’s Midwest Blast at Illinois.
Cynthya Goulet of Canada then clinched the Illini upset by rallying to beat Irish sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 at No. 4. Connelly has lost back-to-back matches after opening the spring 7-0.
In the remaining match, Brianna Knue finally registered a victory against Notre Dame junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) after dropping two previous encounters. Knue was victorious 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 on Thursday after Connelly won 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 at No. 5 in last year’s dual match and 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) in the Midwest Blast. The Irish junior did improve to 6-0 in tiebreakers this season, winning her seventh in a row, dating back to a season ago.
Salas improved to 12-5 against ranked opponents this season and won against a top-40 player for the ninth time in 2003-04. She dropped just five games in dealing McGaffigan a 6-2, 6-3 defeat. Salas has won four in a row against top-50 players and is 19-8 overall, including 7-2 in dual matches at No. 1. McGaffigan, who was 18-5 in 2003-04 heading into the match, is the highest-ranked player Salas has defeated in her career and second top-20 victim of the season for the Colorado native. She topped #15 Luana Magnani of USC at No. 1 in an exhibition match last fall. The last time a Notre Dame player defeated an opponent ranked among the nation’s top 14 was on Sept. 30, 2001, when Becky Varnum (’02) upset #12 Anne Nguyen of Georgia 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the Bulldog Invitational.
Sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) won her fourth match in a row, defeating freshman Emily Wang 6-3, 6-1 at No. 6. Over her last four contests, she has lost just nine games in eight sets.
After Irish rookie Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) defeated freshman Isabel Jarosz of Canada 6-3, 6-1 in the Midwest Blast in November, Jarosz registered a 6-3, 7-5 win in the rematch on Thursday. Thompson saw her seven-match winning streak snapped.
Notre Dame’s streak of seven consecutive matches winning the doubles point came to end, as the Illini swept the doubles contests to take a 1-0 lead. Eklov and Jarosz won the first five games en route to getting off the court first with an 8-3 win over Salas and Lauren Connelly at No. 2. The Irish team won its first seven matches of the spring, but now has dropped back-to-back contests. Eklov and Jarosz are 11-2 this season, including 5-1 in dual matches at No. 2.
The Irish had a chance to win the remaining doubles matches, but could not convert. In each contest, Notre Dame broke serve to even the score at 5-5, but then suffered a late service break to lose 8-6. Knue and Wang clinched the initial point of the match by winning a long game at 6-6 to go up a break — with their fourth service break of the day — on Stastny and Sarah Jane Connelly at No. 3 before serving it out. Moments later, McGaffigan and Goulet, the No. 7 team in college tennis, completed the sweep by beating the Thompson twins, ranked 42nd. Illinois’ No. 1 pair is 17-5 this season, including 7-1 in dual matches at No. 1 and an 8-3 win over the Thompsons in the quarterfinals of last fall’s ITA Midwest Championships.
Notre Dame failed to win a doubles match for just the second time in the last 31 matches and the first time in 13, dating back to the last regular-season match of 2003 at Miami. Illinois won the doubles point for the seventh time in eight matches this spring and swept the doubles for the fourth time.
The win for Illinois was its first against the Irish since 1992. It also stopped an eight-match losing streak at Notre Dame, dating back to an 8-3 win in 1986.
Notre Dame also had a six-match winning streak in the Eck Tennis Pavilion snapped, losing at home for the first time since a 4-3 loss to #13 William & Mary on March 23 of last year.
The Irish lost at both Nos. 3 and 4 singles after compiling a 14-2 record in those spots over the first eight matches of the spring.
Notre Dame was 3-0 against top-30 teams and 2-0 vs. higher-ranked teams this season coming into the match.
#17 Illinois 5, #19 Notre Dame 2
No. 1: #17 Alicia Salas (ND) d. #14 Jennifer McGaffigan (I) 6-2, 6-3
No. 2: Tiffany Eklov (I) d. Christian Thompson (ND) 6-3, 2-6, 6-1
No. 3: Isabel Jarosz (I) d. Catrina Thompson (ND) 6-3, 7-5
No. 4: *Cynthya Goulet (I) d. Lauren Connelly (ND) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
No. 5: Brianna Knue (I) d. Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3
No. 6: Kristina Stastny (ND) d. Emily Wang (I) 6-3, 6-1
No. 1: #7 Goulet/McGaffigan (I) d. #42 Thompson/Thompson (ND) 8-6
No. 2: Eklov/Jarosz (I) d. L. Connelly/Salas (ND) 8-3
No. 3: *Knue/Wang (I) d. S.J. Connelly/Stastny (ND) 8-6
* denotes clinching match