Feb. 28, 2006
Exactly five years to the day after moving to an all-time high national ranking of fifth, the University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team duplicated the feat on Tuesday, climbing two spots to #5 in the latest Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings, administered by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). The Irish – who posted convincing victories against #20 Brigham Young (5-2) and Wisconsin (6-1) over the weekend – stand 9-0 for the first time since 1984-85 and already have six wins against teams ranked among the national top 30. ND will defend that ranking quickly, playing host to #27 Indiana on Tuesday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, beginning at 3 p.m. (EST).
Following wins against Kansas State (4-3), BYU (7-0), and Kansas (7-0), Notre Dame moved up one spot to #5 in the ITA rankings on Feb. 28, 2001, marking the first appearance for the Irish in the national top five since becoming a Division I program in 1985-86. Notre Dame’s stay was short-lived, as it fell 4-3 at #11 Northwestern in its next match, which – despite a 6-1 win at #21 Ohio State later in the week – would send the Irish down three spots in the next rankings. ND stayed in the top 10 the remainder of the 2000-01 season, ending up 10th with a 25-5 record after falling to Florida in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament.
The Irish began the 2005-06 season tied for 22nd in the ITA poll – which is determined by coaches’ voting until switching to a computer formula next week – dipped briefly to 23rd, and then rose to 15th on Feb. 14 after big road victories at #23 Wake Forest (4-3) and #10 North Carolina (5-1). Notre Dame then followed that up by winning 6-1 at #30 Michigan and then coming home to beat #22 Tennessee (7-0) and #9 Harvard (5-2) and rose eight more spots to #7 in last week’s poll.
While two-time defending NCAA champion Stanford (11-0) stayed in the top spot for the 35th consecutive set of rankings (dating back to Feb. 10, 2004), there was a shakeup in the remainder of the top five. USC (7-1) – which won a third-set tiebreaker in the final match remaining to get a 4-3 exhibition win over the Irish in the fall – moved up two spots to #2 after beating #17 Arizona State and Arizona last week. Georgia Tech (6-1) slid up two to third after topping #18 Georgia and Rice last week, while Florida fell two spots to fourth after losing 4-3 against then-#10 North Carolina on Sunday. The Irish moved past Texas and Northwestern into the top five. The Longhorns – who were third last week – fell 4-3 to #15 Miami on Sunday, while the then-#6 Wildcats went 0-2 on a trip to the state of North Carolina, falling 4-3 to the Tar Heels and 5-2 to #8 Duke. UNC – which Notre Dame beat 5-1 on Feb. 12 – used its two big victories to jump four spots to #6. Rounding out the top 10 are Duke, California, Northwestern, and Miami.
Notre Dame continued to be a steady presence among the top 30 in the ITA poll. Since the preseason of the 1992-93 season, the Irish have been among the top 30 teams in the country in 209 of 211 (99.0%) sets of ITA rankings.
In all, 18 of Notre Dame’s 23 regular-season opponents are listed among the 75 teams in this week’s rankings, with 12 in the top 30: #6 North Carolina, #7 Duke, #9 Northwestern, #11 Texas, #14 Harvard, #15 Vanderbilt, #19 Brigham Young, #20 Wake Forest, #26 Michigan, #27 Indiana, #29 Tennessee, and #30 Purdue. For the complete set of ITA rankings, see www.itatennis.com.
The women’s tennis team is the eighth Notre Dame squad to enter the national top five in 2005-06, joining women’s fencing (currently 1st), women’s soccer (peaked at 1st), men’s fencing (currently 2nd), women’s cross country (peaked at 3rd), football (peaked at 5th), women’s volleyball (peaked at 5th), men’s cross country (peaked at 5th).