April 20, 2008
For the third time in four years and eighth time since joining the conference, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team has captured the Big East Championship. The top-seeded Irish defeated host and third-seeded South Florida Sunday morning in Tampa to take the title. The win secured Notre Dame’s 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance and put them in the running to become one of sixteen host schools for first and second round play. The Irish (21-8) have now won fourteen of their last fifteen matches and have handed the Bulls two of their six losses on the season.
The charge was once again led by strong doubles play, as the Irish captured the match’s initial point for the fifteenth straight time. Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft justified their #1 national ranking with an 8-5 win over Janette Bajlkova and Iciri Rai at the top doubles position. The win was the third of the weekend for Notre Dame’s top doubles team and their 35th of the season. The pair’s next win will tie the school record for doubles wins in a season, a mark currently held by 2006 graduates Kristina Stastny and Lauren Connelly. Buck and Tefft have won 19 of their last 20 matches and are an astounding 24-3 this spring in dual action.
Notre Dame got its other doubles win from Colleen Rielley and Cosmina Ciobanu who earned an easy win for the second day in a row. The sophomores posted an 8-2 victory over Lauren Schumate and Jessica Zok at No. 2 to earn their 20th win of the season against just two losses. The pair has won thirteen of their last fourteen decisions and currently has the best single season winning percentage (.909) of any team in school history.
Singles play quickly turned toward the favored Irish as they earned straight set wins at the Nos. 2, 3, and 4 positions to clinch the title. Buck continued her late season charge at No. 2 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Zok. The Irish captain won for the seventh consecutive match and the 13th time in 14 contests. With the win, Buck improved her record to 20-15, clinching her third 20 win singles season of her career. The victory also gave Buck her 208th win of her career (combined singles and doubles). The mark is good for fourth all-time on the Notre Dame career wins list as she passes former teammate Catrina Thompson who was 207-90 in her brilliant career.
Ciobanu earned her second win in three days with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Allyn Mueller in the No. 3 position. The sophomore extended her team best winning streak to nine matches and improved to 27-15 on the season. Ciobanu now has the second most singles wins on the team and is 16-11 in dual play including 13-5 at the No. 3 position.
Rielley clinched the championship and earned her 22nd win of the season and fourth in a row with a 6-3, 6-4 decision over Cruz at No. 4. The sophomore battled her way through a tough second set to earn her seventh win in nine matches and her second win of the weekend. She also improved to 16-10 in dual play. The lone blemish for Notre Dame came at the No. 6 singles position where Guevara defeated Katie Potts 6-3, 6-2. It was the lone defeat of the Irish the entire tournament and just the third time the Irish junior has fallen in her last ten matches. She stands at 21-10 on the season.
The Nos. 1 and 5 matches were suspended when the title was clinched with the Irish trailing in both contests. The No. 1 battle between Tefft and Bajlkova was the only match between two ranked singles players in the tournament. 44th ranked Tefft dropped the first set but was ahead of 60th ranked Bajlkova 4-2 in the second when the match was halted. Krisik was in a third set with Rai when play was stopped at No. 5. Krisik won the first set 6-2, dropped the second 6-3, and was behind 4-0 in the final set at the conclusion of the match.
The Irish have now won two of three title matches against South Florida and are 3-1 against the Bulls since they joined the conference three years ago. Notre Dame will be well-rested for NCAA tournament play which begins on Friday, May 9 or Saturday, May 10 as they will not play a match until then. The Irish will have to wait until the pairings are announced in early May to see if they will host the first and second rounds for the third time in as many seasons.