March 3, 2004
The 19th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (7-1) will try to continue its hot play against another strong opponent, when it welcomes #17 Illinois (5-2) for a 4 p.m. (EST) match on Thursday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. After dropping their season opener, the Irish have won seven in a row, highlighted by a 3-0 record this season against top-30 opponents. The match will mark the 11th consecutive season that the Eck Pavilion has played host to at least one contest between a pair of top-20 teams.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: Notre Dame improved to 3-0 this season against top-30 teams by defeating #26 Indiana Sunday morning in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish took the doubles point and won four singles contests in straight sets before dropping a pair of match tiebreakers. Among the highlights for the Irish were senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), the 17th-ranked player in college tennis, dropping just two games in defeating #30 Dora Vastag to improve to 11-5 against ranked opponents this season. The Irish took the initial point of the match for the seventh consecutive time. At the top spot, freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), ranked 42nd nationally, topped the 45th-ranked team of Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran 8-4. The Thompsons have won four in a row, including three straight vs. teams currently listed in the national rankings. Catrina Thompson clinched the victory with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 3 over Sarah Batty.
IRISH vs. ILLINI: Illinois has risen six spots from its preseason listing to stand 17th in the most recent national rankings with a 5-2 record. The highlight of the season for the Illini thus far was a 5-2 home win against #11 Harvard on Feb. 14. Illinois took the doubles point and the top four singles matches — including three-setters at Nos. 1, 2, and 3 — to secure the victory. The following week, the Illini escaped from Wake Forest with a 4-3 triumph by winning two of three three-set matches. In the final match on-court, Brianna Knue rallied from losing the first set 6-1 to come back and win a third-set tiebreaker to give Illinois the victory. The two Illini losses this season have come to #23 Tennessee (5-2, Feb. 1, away) and #4 Washington (5-2, Feb. 27, home). Illinois also has victories over Marquette, Illinois State, and Western Michigan.
Senior Jennifer McGaffigan is among the top 15 in the national singles and doubles rankings. She is 14th in singles with an 18-5 record. McGaffigan started the season 8-0 and reached the round of 16 in each of the first two legs of the collegiate grand slam, the ITA All-American Championship and National Indoor Championships. A semifinalist in the ITA Midwest Championships, McGaffigan has lost only to players currently ranked in the top 25. In doubles, McGaffigan and junior Cynthya Goulet of Quebec are ranked seventh with a 16-5 record, including 6-1 this spring at No. 1. The pair reached the quarterfinals of the All-Americans and the title match in the regional indoor tournament last fall.
Illinois returned six letterwinners, including four starters from last year’s team that was 17-8, finished third in the Big Ten Conference (9-3, tournament semifinals), and 22nd in the final national rankings. The Illini beat UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Championship before falling to #6 Washington in the second round. McGaffigan finished the season 70th in singles and 27th in doubles, along with Michelle Webb, who graduated. Current senior Tiffany Eklov was 88th in singles.
Sujay Lama is in his sixth year at the helm of the Illinois program, having compiled a 76-54 (.585) record.
Notre Dame and Illinois will meet for the 24th time since their initial meeting in 1980 (a 5-4 ND win). The Irish lead the series 16-7 and have won each of the last 11, dating back to 1993. After the first match, Illinois won five of the next seven tilts, and the teams split the next four before the current Notre Dame winning streak. The Illini had back-to-back 5-4 wins at home in 1991 and ’92, which are their last victories over the Irish. The two matches prior to last year’s were both 4-3 Notre Dame victories. The Irish won the only postseason meeting, a 5-3 triumph in the 1997 NCAA regional at the Courtney Tennis Center. Notre Dame is 10-1 at home against the Illini, including eight consecutive victories, dating back to an 8-3 home loss in 1986. This year’s squad is the highest-ranked Illinois team ever to face the Irish, while it will be the second consecutive year the Illini come into the match as the higher-ranked team after that had never previously happened.
A year ago, #27 Notre Dame upset #24 Illinois 6-1 in Urbana-Champaign on April 2, 2003. The Irish won the doubles point and five singles matches. The doubles came down to the No. 3 match, in which Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) prevailed 8-4 over Eklov and Knue. Eklov scored Illinois’ lone point with a victory at No. 3 singles, while it took the Irish three sets to claim wins at Nos. 2 and 5.
ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame moved up one spot to 19th in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings after topping #26 Indiana 5-2 on Sunday. It is the highest ranking of the season for the Irish and the best since they were 15th on March 12, 2003, in the final coaches poll of last season (prior to the computer point-per-match formula determining the remainder of the rankings).
The Irish have one singles player and one doubles team in the most recent set of individual national rankings, the first of the season based on the ITA’s computer point-per-match formula. Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) dropped three spots to 17th after opening the spring with a 5-2 record at No. 1 singles. She currently stands 18-8 this season with an 11-5 mark against ranked opponents. Salas, one of just five players in the program’s history to be ranked in the national top 15 in singles (fall rankings, released in early January), is the highest-ranked Irish player since current assistant coach Michelle Dasso finished her career at No. 5 in 2001. Freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) jumped into the doubles rankings at 42nd. They are 15-7 this season, including a 6-2 mark in dual-match play at No. 1.
In the Midwest Region singles rankings released at the end of the fall season, Salas was second in singles, while Christian Thompson was 11th and Catrina Thompson came in 15th. In doubles, Salas and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) led the Irish at fifth, the Thompson twins were seventh, and junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) were 15th. The Thompsons were one of just three all-freshman teams in the country to earn regional rankings.
SEVEN STRAIGHT: Since losing 4-3 at Michigan to open the season on Jan. 29, Notre Dame has won seven consecutive matches. The winning streak is the longest since the 2001 team won 10 in a row from March 30-May 13 en route to reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA Championship. That squad finished 25-5 and 10th in the country.
TOPPING THE TOP-30 TEAMS: Notre Dame is 3-0 this season against teams ranked in the top-30 heading into their match with the Irish. VCU, ranked 14th at the time, was the first to fall victim to Notre Dame, in a 4-3 decision in Richmond, Va. on Feb. 13. The Irish then notched wins over #20 BYU (6-1, Feb. 20) and #26 Indiana (5-2, Feb. 29) at home. Each of Notre Dame’s next three matches also are against top-30 foes: Thursday at home vs. #18 Illinois; March 10 vs. #7 Duke in Wikaloa, Hawaii; and March 13 vs. #28 Tennessee in Wikaloa, Hawaii.
TOUGH STRETCH: The Irish are in the midst of five consecutive matches against teams ranked in the top 30 of the ITA national rankings. Notre Dame already posted victories over #20 BYU (6-1, Feb. 20) and #26 Indiana (5-2, Feb. 29) and has upcoming contests with #18 Illinois (Thursday), #7 Duke (March 10 in Wikaloa, Hawaii), and #28 Tennessee (March 13 in Wikaloa, Hawaii).
FAMILIAR TOP-20 SHOWDOWN: Thursday’s match will make this the 11th consecutive season that the Eck Tennis Pavilion has seen at least one contest between a pair of top-20 women’s tennis teams. The last campaign that did not see a top-20 matchup at Notre Dame was 1993, which did feature three tilts between top-25 teams. Since 1994, Notre Dame is 9-12 in matches between two top-20 teams at home, including 1-1 last season: #1 Duke 5, #19 Notre Dame 2 (Feb. 21); #19 Notre Dame 6, #13 Texas 1 (March 2).
FABULOUS FEBRUARY: Notre Dame finished the month of February with a perfect 6-0 record. The Irish defeated #64 Wisconsin (7-0, Feb. 1), #14 VCU (4-3, Feb. 13), Boston College (6-1, Feb. 14), #69 Virginia Tech (5-2, Feb. 15), #20 BYU (6-1, Feb. 20), and #26 Indiana (5-2, Feb. 29). It marked the first undefeated February since Notre Dame began playing a full schedule of action in the month. The Irish did not play a match in February in the first nine years of varsity women’s tennis. Notre Dame then went 3-0 in February of 1986 and hasn’t duplicated the feat since then.
HOME, SWEET HOME: Notre Dame is unbeaten in four home matches this season and has won six in a row in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, dating back to a 4-3 loss to #13 William & Mary on March 23, 2003. Since its completion in 1988, the Eck Pavilion has seen the Irish compile a 128-30 (.810) record in the facility. Notre Dame was 8-3 at home in ’03, losing only to #5 North Carolina, #1 Duke, and the Tribe.
Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) is 5-0 at home this season in singles and has won seven consecutive contests in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, dating back to last year. Her last defeat at home was a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 decision against #82 Megan Muth of William & Mary at No. 2 on March 23, 2003. Salas and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) are 4-1 at home this season, having lost for the first time on Sunday to #44 Sarah Batty and Martina Grimm of Indiana at No. 2. Notre Dame’s other two doubles teams also are both 4-1 in the Eck Pavilion in 2003-04. Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) lost only to Rebecca Pike and Nicole Schneider of BYU, while freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) lost to Luana Magnani and Carine Vermeulen of USC at No. 1 in an exhibition match last fall, but are 4-0 in spring play at home. The Thompsons also both hold 4-1 singles records in the Eck, with Catrina losing only to #93 Vermeulen in the fall and Christian dropping a match tiebreaker to Indiana’s Linda Tran on Sunday.
STREAKS: A few active streaks heading into the Illinois match:
* Notre Dame has won seven dual matches in a row.
* The Irish have won the doubles point in seven straight matches.
* Notre Dame has won three in a row against top-30 teams.
* The Irish have defeated Illinois in 11 consecutive matches.
* Notre Dame has won six matches in a row in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
* Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) has won seven in a row, all at No. 3 singles.
* Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) has won three consecutive matches vs. top-50 opponents.
* Freshman twins Catrina and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) have won four straight in doubles, at No. 1, including three in a row against teams currently in the national rankings.
* Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) has won five consecutive tiebreakers.
* Sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) has won three straight matches, all at No. 6 singles.
BIG ELEVEN (OR TWELVE)?: Though Notre Dame participates in the BIG EAST Conference in women’s tennis, a glance at the Irish schedule may not bear out that fact. Notre Dame will face only a trio of BIG EAST foes (Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami) during the regular season, but will take on a total of eight teams from the Big Ten Conference, including six in seven matches. Only Penn State, Minnesota, and Michigan State from the Big Ten will not play the Irish this season. A year ago, Notre Dame played eight matches against Big Ten teams, posting a 6-1 mark, with the only loss coming at #16 Northwestern. In ’04, the Irish are 3-1 thus far, losing only to Michigan in the season opener.
Notre Dame has had a long history of playing Big Ten teams, posting an all-time 107-61 (.637) mark, averaging over six matches per season against Big Ten teams in the 28-year history of the program. Each of the six most common opponents for Notre Dame in the history of the program are members of the Big Ten (Northwestern-24 matches, Illinois-23, Purdue-22, Michigan-22, Wisconsin-19, Indiana-18).
SUPER SALAS: Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), ranked 17th, has established herself as one of the elite players in college tennis this season. She stands 18-8 in singles, including 6-2 at No. 1, having already defeated 11 ranked opponents. Against ranked foes, she is 11-5 this season, with wins over #15 Luana Magnani of USC, #29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona, #30 Dora Vastag of Indiana, #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson, #37 Elizabeth Exon of Michigan, #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary, #42 Jessica Rush of Northwestern, #43 Barbora Zahnova of BYU, #69 Andrea Yung of Northwestern, #79 Shana McElroy of Wisconsin, and #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt. In addition, Salas posted wins over Ohio State’s Lindsay Williams (now 43rd) and Wisconsin’s Katie McGaffigan (now 52nd), who were both unranked at the time, but are now in the rankings. She also beat Exon (now 60th) when she was unranked in the fall.
Last fall, she fought through qualifying to reach the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships in October and then gained entrance to the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships the following month due to her runner-up result in the ITA Midwest Championships. She is just the fourth Notre Dame player ever to take part in the first two legs of the collegiate grand slam, joining Melissa Harris (’92), Wendy Crabtree (’96), Jennifer Hall (’99), and current Irish assistant Michelle Dasso (’01). When she was listed 14th in the fall edition of the ITA national singles rankings, Salas joined those same four as the only Notre Dame players ever listed among the top 15 players in college tennis. She also is 13-3 this season in doubles, including 7-1 at No. 2.
Salas has an 89-33 career singles record, including 18 wins over ranked opponents. Her victory total ranks 16th in the Notre Dame record book.
CONNELLY COMES DOWN TO EARTH: Sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) had her perfect spring spoiled on Sunday vs. Indiana, as she lost in both singles and doubles action for the first time in 2004. Her eight-match winning streak in singles was snapped in a match-tiebreaker defeat against Laura McGaffigan 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10-8) at No. 4, while she and senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) fell 8-6 to #44 Sarah Batty and Martina Grimm at No. 2 doubles after opening the spring 7-0. Connelly and Salas are 13-3 on the season.
DYNAMIC DOUBLES: Doubles has been a strength for the Irish again this season, as Notre Dame has won the doubles point in seven consecutive matches after dropping it in the season opener at Michigan in an 8-6 decision in the last match on-court. In 2003, Notre Dame won the doubles point 16 times in 24 tries. The Irish have now been victorious in each of the last 13 matches in which they have won the doubles point. The last time Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead, but then lost was a 4-3 decision against #13 William & Mary on March 23, 2003.
Overall, Irish teams are 18-5 this spring and all three starting pairs have been nationally ranked in 2003-04. Freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) are 6-2 at No. 1, including three consecutive wins over teams currently in the national rankings. They are 42nd in the most recent listing. At No. 2, senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) opened the spring 7-0 before losing to Indiana on Sunday. They have been as high as 36th in the national rankings this season. The No. 3 team of junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) is 5-2 and was ranked 43rd in the preseason.
THOMPSON TRIUMPHS OVER TOP TEAMS: Freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) have won three consecutive matches against doubles pairs currently listed in the national rankings. The Irish team beat Elissa Kinard and Felice Lam of Virginia Tech, ranked 31st, 8-2 on Feb. 15 before topping 34th-ranked Hadley MacFarlane and Barbora Zahnova of BYU 8-5 on Feb. 20 and #45 Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran of Indiana 8-4 on Feb. 29. The Thompsons are 15-7 this season, including 6-2 in dual-match play at No. 1. They are 42nd in the most recent national rankings.
MAGNIFICENT MIDDLE: Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) have been outstanding for the Irish in the middle of the singles lineup this spring, each posting a 7-1 record. Thompson dropped her first match of the spring to Kavitha Tipirneni of Michigan before winning seven straight, including four clinching wins. Connelly, who played Nos. 6 and 5 as a freshman, won her first seven matches of the spring before falling in a match tiebreaker to Laura McGaffigan of Indiana on Sunday.
CLINCHING CATRINA: Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) has provided the clinching victory in four of Notre Dame’s seven wins this spring. She delivered each of the first three Irish triumphs — against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and a 4-3 upset of #14 VCU — prior to clinching the 5-2 win over #26 Indiana on Sunday.
TIEBREAKER TITAN: Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) is 5-0 in tiebreakers this season and has won six in a row, dating back to last year. Three of her five tiebreakers this season have been decided by 9-7 scores. Connelly lost her only match tiebreaker of 2003-04, against Ashley James of Virginia Tech, after going 5-0 in them as a sophomore.
DON’T LOOK BACK: Irish players have compiled a 95-12 (.888) record this season when winning the first set. Among the top performers are senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), who is 17-1, senior Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor School), who is 8-0, and freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), who is 14-1.
PENCIL IT IN: Notre Dame has used the same singles and doubles lineups in each of its eight dual matches this spring. In singles, it has been senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) at No. 1, followed by freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), and then sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 4, her sister, junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 5, and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) at No. 6. In doubles, the Thompsons have played No. 1, while Salas and Lauren Connelly are No. 2, and Stastny and Sarah Jane Connelly have played No. 3.
HERE COME THE IRISH: Notre Dame’s pre-spring break schedule features a number of teams against which the Irish have had a great deal of success over the past few seasons. In regular-season action during the previous five seasons (1999-2003) against the first nine teams on the 2004 dual-match slate, Notre Dame posted a 33-1 (.971) record, with the lone blemish a 5-2 loss to Indiana in 2002. Including the postseason, the Irish are 36-2 (.947) during that span against Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, VCU, Boston College, Virginia Tech, BYU, Indiana, and Illinois. The Badgers beat Notre Dame 4-2 in the ’02 NCAA first round. Over the previous eight seasons (1996-2003), the Irish are 46-3 (.939) vs. those teams, with just a 6-3 defeat against BYU in 1997 and a 4-3 Wisconsin win in ’96 added to loss column. Overall in that stretch, the Irish are 54-5 (.915), including losing to Wisconsin 5-2 in the ’97 NCAAs.
TOUGH STRETCH COMING: The final 11 Notre Dame opponents — Duke, Tennessee, Iowa, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Marquette, Miami, William & Mary, Texas, Northwestern, and Purdue — have had considerably more recent success against the Irish than the initial nine ’04 foes (see previous note). In the latter half of the spring, the Irish will take on teams against whom they are 28-24 (.539) over the previous five seasons (1999-2003). Notre Dame holds a 41-35 (.539) mark against those schools since 1996.
There is other evidence that the spring break trip to Wikaloa, Hawaii will begin the more-difficult half of the season for Notre Dame. From that point on, seven of the 11 Irish matches will be against teams ranked in the preseason national top 30, after just two of the initial nine foes were. Eight of the last 11 Notre Dame opponents earned bids to the 2003 NCAA Championship, while just four of the first nine contests are vs. NCAA qualifiers from a season ago.
STREAK BUSTERS: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 snapped a pair of Rams’ streaks. Prior to the match, VCU had not lost at home in nearly five years, boasting a 40-match winning streak that stretched back to a 5-2 defeat against Virginia Tech on March 28, 1999. In addition, the Rams had won 38 consecutive regular-season contests, dating back to a 4-3 loss to William & Mary exactly two years earlier, on Feb. 13, 2002.
ANOTHER TOP-15 UPSET: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 continued an impressive streak of knocking off top-15 foes. The Irish now have at least one victory over a top-15 team in each of the last 11 seasons, dating back to 1994. In ’93, Notre Dame topped #19 Clemson and #19 Alabama, but was 0-5 against teams in the top 15. During the streak, the Irish have notched 20 victories over top-15 opponents, including five in 1996, highlighted by a 5-4 upset of #5 Texas, which remains the highest-ranked team ever to be defeated by Notre Dame. VCU was the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the Irish on its own home courts since Notre Dame won at #14 William & Mary 5-2 on April 13, 2002.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2004 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 20 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 18 of them were among the 75 teams listed in the preseason ITA rankings and 12 earned berths in last year’s NCAA tournament. Highlighting Notre Dame’s schedule are four matches with teams in the preseason top 10 and eight with top-25 opponents. All four of the contests vs. top-10 teams will be away from home: vs. #4 Duke (March 10) and #10 Tennessee (March 13) in Wikaloa, Hawaii; at #9 North Carolina (March 28); and at #8 William & Mary (April 10). Among the top teams to come to Notre Dame are #14 Northwestern (April 15), #22 Miami (April 4), and #23 Illinois (March 4). The Irish also travel to #17 Virginia Commonwealth (W, 4-3) and #27 Texas (April 12).
SISTER ACT: For the second straight season, Notre Dame has an unprecedented two pairs of sisters on its roster in 2003-04. In 2002-03, Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.) and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) joined the Notre Dame squad as freshmen, combining with sisters Maggie Donohue and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) to mark the first time in school history that a team featured two sets of sisters at the same time. Though Maggie Donohue graduated in ’03, the Connellys are joined this season by freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) to give Notre Dame two sets of sisters once again. A total of six sets of sisters have earned monograms in women’s tennis, by far the most of any of the 13 Irish women’s sports.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Jay Louderback is in his 15th season at Notre Dame with a 262-125 (.677) record and his 25th year as a collegiate coach with a 466-303 (.606) mark. He ranks fifth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories. Louderback’s Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 11 seasons, have won 11 conference titles and registered 20 or more victories five times in the last eight campaigns. Since the preseason of the 1995 season, Louderback’s teams have been ranked in the national top 25 in 132 of 137 sets of rankings. After taking over a program looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance, Louderback has helped Notre Dame to the NCAAs 10 times in the last 11 years, including five appearances in the round of 16 and a 1996 quarterfinal finish. Louderback, a four-time Midwest Region coach of the year, has been honored as his conference’s top coach on eight occasions, including five times in eight years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Louderback’s players have earned All-America honors 13 times, won three national ITA awards, and earned 18 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 10 to the NCAA doubles tournament. His players have dominated the University awards during Louderback’s tenure, leading all sports in both Byron V. Kanaley awards (five) and Francis Patrick O’Connor awards (five). His family was honored with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Family of the Year Award for 2002. The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 1989-90 season after coaching for seven years at his alma mater and three years (men and women) at Iowa State.
FORMER NATIONAL No. 1 BROOK BUCK HEADED FOR NOTRE DAME: Head coach Jay Louderback announced recently that Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) has signed a national letter of intent to enroll at Notre Dame and join his team in the fall of 2004. Buck, a three-time Oklahoma state singles champion, was ranked No. 1 in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) girls’ 16-and-under national rankings in January of this year before moving up to the 18-and-under age group. She had an outstanding year of 16s junior action in 2002. In addition to being the singles runner-up at the National Hardcourt Championships, she won three national doubles titles, claiming crowns in the Winter National Championships, the Spring Supernational Championships, and the Supernational Hardcourt Championships. A senior at Oklahoma Christian School, Buck won state No. 1 singles titles in class 3A in 2001, ’02, and ’03, and will go for another next spring. Despite only playing in the 18-and-under division since April of this year, Buck has earned a national ranking of 28th, which places her currently as the 10th-highest-ranked player who will enroll in college next fall.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Eileen Carroll at email@example.com, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.