March 18, 2006
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Freshman Katie Potts (Brookfield, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) saved three match points and rallied for a three-set victory in the final match remaining to give the second-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (14-0) a 4-3 victory over #48 Texas A&M (5-7) Saturday afternoon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. It was the second time Potts came through in that situation this season and the sixth consecutive 4-3 match that the Irish have prevailed in. The triumph also provided Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback the 500th win of his 26-year head-coaching career, making him just the 10th collegiate women’s tennis coach ever to reach that milestone.
The Irish faced one of their toughest tests of the season on Saturday, as they won the doubles point and got quick wins at Nos. 4 and 5 in singles to go up 3-0, but were down a set in each of the remaining four matches. Texas A&M finished off straight-set wins at Nos. 1 and 3 and then got a three-set triumph at No. 2 to tie the score at 3-3.
Potts – who saw her 16-match winning streak ended on Wednesday in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win over #5 Duke – lost a tiebreaker in the opening set on Saturday and then faced match point on three occasions in the second set against Marisa Druss before eventually coming back for a 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2 victory at No. 6. The Irish rookie won a three-setter in the final match left on Feb. 11 at Wake Forest in Notre Dame’s first big match of the year. Those are Potts’ only two three-set matches as a collegian. She improved to 19-4 on the season, including 13-1 in dual action, and the Irish remained perfect (14-0) this spring at No. 6 singles.
All three of ND’s 4-3 wins this season have seen freshmen come through in the decisive match, as rookie Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.) won at 3-3 on Wednesday.
The Irish won the doubles point for the 14th time in as many matches. First off the court were junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), the fourth-ranked team in the country. The sisters – who had not played together since March 5 – beat Anna Blagodarova and Sarah Foster 8-2 at No. 1. The Thompsons avoided their first two-match losing streak of the season and now stand 14-3, including 8-2 in dual play at No. 1.
The 46th-ranked duo of seniors Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Kristin Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) rallied from a 4-0 deficit for an 8-5 victory over Druss and Tifany Clifford at No. 3 to clinch the doubles point for the team-leading sixth time this season. The veterans have been Notre Dame’s most-consistent doubles team, standing a perfect 14-0 this spring and 25-5 overall. It was the 22nd doubles-point clinching victory of Connelly’s career, which ties her older sister, Sarah Jane Connelly (’05), for the Notre Dame record. Stastny stands just behind with 21 career doubles-point clinches.
Texas A&M became the first team to defeat the Irish at No. 2 doubles, as the 55th-ranked team of Anna Lubinsky and Nicole Mechem knocked off the 39th-ranked squad of Tefft and sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) by an 8-5 score at No. 2.
Notre Dame quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a pair of quick wins in singles. First off was Stastny, who won 6-2, 6-2 against Clifford at No. 5. The Irish senior avoided her first two-match losing streak of the season and improved to 21-6, including 12-2 in dual play.
Tefft, Wednesday’s hero, continued to roll with a 6-3, 6-2 win against Mechem at No. 4. She has now won nine in a row and is 19-2 on the season, including 11-1 in dual play.
The final point would prove difficult for the Irish. A&M’s Anna Blagodarova got her team on the board with a tight two-set win over Buck at No. 3, taking a 6-4, 7-5 decision. Lubinsky, ranked 66th, then beat 32nd-ranked Catrina Thompson 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1.
At No. 2, Christian Thompson came back from a one-set deficit to force a third set, but eventually lost 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to Sarah Foster, which tied the score at 3-3.
Louderback – who also coached at Wichita State and Iowa State before coming to Notre Dame 17 seasons ago – now holds a 500-324 (.607) career record. He joins an elite club of women’s tennis coaches to own 500+ career victories, along with Jim Schwitters (Hawai’i), Jim Brockhoff (Xavier), Robert Screen (Hampton), Paul Kostin (VCU), Lin Loring (Indiana), Jeff Moore (Texas), Frank Brennan (Stanford), Jan Brogan (California), and Gualberto Escudero (Pepperdine).
Notre Dame is 14-0 for just the second time. The Irish will try to match the best start in program history – done in 1983-84 – on Monday when they travel to #11 Texas for a 5:30 p.m. (CST) contest.
#2 Notre Dame 4, #48 Texas A&M 3SinglesNo. 1: #66 Anna Lubinsky (A&M) def. #32 Catrina Thompson (ND) 6-3, 6-4No. 2: Sarah Foster (A&M) def. #48 Christian Thompson (ND) 6-2, 5-7, 6-2No. 3: Anna Blagodarova (A&M) def. Brook Buck (ND) 6-4, 7-5No. 4: Kelcy Tefft (ND) def. Nicki Mechem (A&M) 6-3, 6-2No. 5: Kristina Stastny (ND) def. Tiffany Clifford (A&M) 6-2, 6-2No. 6: Katie Potts (ND) def. Marisa Druss (A&M) 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2Order of Finish: 5, 4, 3, 1, 2, 6*DoublesNo. 1: #4 Thompson/Thompson (ND) def. Blagodarova/Foster (A&M) 8-2No. 2: #55 Lubinsky/Mecherm (A&M) def. #39 Buck/Tefft (ND) 8-5No. 3: #47 Connelly/Stastny (ND) def. Clifford/Druss (A&M) 8-5Order of Finish: 1, 3*, 2* - indicates clinching victory