Seniors Kristina Stastny (left) and Lauren Connelly have helped the Irish to their best-ever NCAA tournament seeding.

Notre Dame Earns Highest-Ever NCAA Seed (No. 2), Will Host Early-Round Action

May 3, 2006

The second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (24-1) was tabbed the No. 2 overall seed and will play host to first- and second-round action in the 2006 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship, it was announced Wednesday evening. Action will begin next Friday, May 12, at the Courtney Tennis Center, with Michigan (16-7) and Nebraska (17-9) playing at 10 a.m. (ET) in first-round action, and the Irish – who earned their highest-ever seeding, behind only two-time defending NCAA champ Stanford – facing Mid-Continent Conference champion Valparaiso (15-7) at 1 p.m. The winners will meet in the second round on Saturday, May 13 at 1 p.m.

Notre Dame, champions of the BIG EAST Conference for the second straight year, gained an automatic bid to participate in the NCAA Championship for the 11th consecutive season and 13th time in the last 14 years. The Crusaders also gained automatic entrance due to their conference-tournament triumph, while the Wolverines and Cornhuskers garnered two of the 33 at-large bids.

The winner of the second-round match will advance to Stanford, Calif., which will play host to the final four rounds of the tournament at the Taube Tennis Center from May 18-21. If the bracket holds true to seedings, the Irish would take on #15 Clemson, #7 Miami, and #3 USC on the road to the final.

Valparaiso went 8-0 in Mid-Con action during the regular season and then topped IUPUI by a 4-1 score in the tournament final to earn its second consecutive NCAA trip. The Wolverines are ranked 29th in the nation, third among teams in the ITA’s Midwest Region. Michigan was 8-2 in league play during the regular season to finish third in the Big Ten behind #9 Northwestern and Iowa. U-M then upended the Hawkeyes to reach the title match of the conference tourney, but fell 4-2 to the Wildcats. Nebraska tied for fifth in the Big 12 Conference with a 6-5 record and then fell 4-1 to #5 Baylor in the tournament semis.

The Irish earned one of the top 16 seeds in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2001 and the fifth time overall. Notre Dame’s previous high seeding came in 1996, when it was one of four teams tabbed as Nos. 5-8 seeds in the event. That Irish squad lived up to its seeding, reaching the quarterfinals – which stands as Notre Dame’s top performance in the event since moving up to the Division I level in 1985-86. The Irish also earned top-16 seeds in 1999 (No. 12 seed), 2000 (Nos. 13-16), and ’01 (No. 13).

The Courtney Tennis Center will play host to NCAA women’s tournament action for the sixth time in the last decade, after being the national site in 1998 and an early-round venue in 1997, ’99, 2000, and ’01. Notre Dame holds a 6-2 home record in NCAA play. Overall, it will be the 11th time the facility has played host to NCAA Championship competition, including having been the men’s national site in both 1971 and ’94.

The Irish have made 13 NCAA appearances since their first trip in 1993, reaching the round of 16 on five occasions and the 1996 quarterfinals. Only 10 other schools have been invited to 13+ NCAA tournaments since `93: Arizona State, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Pepperdine, USC, Stanford, Texas, and UCLA. The group of schools that have been in each of the last 11 NCAAs has just 18 members: all the above plus Fresno State, Miami, Northwestern, South Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Notre Dame has lost in the round of 32 in each of the last three seasons after falling in the opening round in 2002.

Valparaiso was a regular opponent of Notre Dame during the infancy of its varsity program, as the schools met in each of the first seven seasons of Irish women’s tennis, but have not met since then. ND leads the series 5-2, with next Friday marking the first meeting since a 9-0 victory at home in the fall of the 1982-83 season.

Michigan is a familiar foe, as the Irish and Wolverines have played at least once in each of the last 20 seasons, with Notre Dame holding a 15-8 advantage in the series, including 11 wins in the last 12 matches. The Irish won 6-1 in Ann Arbor on Feb. 15. After Michigan won at Notre Dame in 1984, the Irish have won all 10 subsequent matches with the Wolverines at home.

Notre Dame and Nebraska have never met in women’s tennis.

An incredible 17 of Notre Dame’s 26 opponents from this season earned invitations to the tournament: USC (No. 3 seed), Duke (No. 8), North Carolina (No. 9), Northwestern (No. 11), Vanderbilt (No. 12), Brigham Young, Harvard, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, South Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, and Western Michigan. The Irish went 14-1 against that group, losing a 4-3 road decision to Vanderbilt and also dropping a 4-3 exhibition affair with USC.

For the seventh consecutive year, the NCAA Championship features a field of 64 teams, consisting of 31 automatic-qualifying conference champions and 33 at-large selections. The first and second rounds will take place May 12-13 at 16 campus sites.

The draws for the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships will be released Thursday on They will take place May 22-28 at Stanford, with 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams competing. Since 1989, Notre Dame competitors have garnered 20 invitations to the national singles tournament and 12 to the doubles event.

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