April 9, 2008
For the eighth time in school history, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team took on a #1 ranked team and for the eighth time they fell. But this defeat was not like the others as the Irish #1 Northwestern on the ropes all day Wednesday, but ultimately fell short in their upset bid, losing 4-3. It was the narrowest margin of victory for the Wildcats (20-1) all season and the closest Notre Dame (16-8) has ever come to upsetting a #1 team.
After winning the doubles point for the tenth straight match, Notre Dame took a 2-1 lead over Northwestern with a career-best win from Cosmina Ciobanu at No. 3. Three close Wildcat wins clinched the win for the visitors, but Brook Buck’s win over fifth-ranked Georgia Rose in the last match on the court trimmed the final margin to just one point. In arguably the best match Buck has played in her career, the Irish senior jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Rose who entered the match with a 31-8 record. The lead swelled to 5-1 with Buck serving before Rose regained some momentum with a break and a hold. Buck converted on her second chance to serve for the set and prevailed 6-3. After earning a break to open the second set, the Notre Dame captain dropped four games in a row to fall behind 4-1. Three games later, the set was even at four with a furious rally from Buck. Rose again countered, winning the last two games of the set and earning the split with a break of Buck’s serve in the final game. With the team match decided, the two played a match tiebreaker in place of a third set, with Rose again vaulting to the early lead, 3-0. Five points in a row from Buck put the senior ahead. With the tiebreaker level at seven apiece, Buck took control for good, clinching the match with three points in a row to earn the 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (10-7) win. Rose became the highest-ranked player ever to be defeated by Buck (previous high: #16 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest in 2005, Buck’s freshman year). The Notre Dame senior has won eight of nine matches and is now an even 15-15 on the season.
The other singles victor, Ciobanu, bested #25 Samantha Murray 6-3, 6-2 to post the best singles win of her career. The Notre Dame sophomore was down 3-1 in the first set before running off five games in a row to win the set, earning a key break at 3-3 to take control. Ciobanu broke early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead she would not relinquish on her way to the straight set win. The Notre Dame sophomore now owns the longest win streak on the team with five wins in a row and improved to 23-15, 12-11 in duals this season.
Northwestern responded from the doubles loss by taking the initial singles point of the match at No. 5. Nazlie Ghazal defeated Kali Krisik 6-3, 6-3 to tie the match at one apiece. After five holds to begin the match, the Wildcat junior broke Krisik at 3-2 to earn the lead and held to rest of the way to capture the first set. The second set was similar, and with the score knotted at three, Ghazal broke Krisik again and used that momentum to win the final two games of the match. Krisik had her five-match winning streak halted as she fell for just the fourth time in dual play this season. Her overall record is now 29-6.
After Ciobanu’s win made it 2-1, Lauren Lui outlasted Colleen Rielley at No. 4 to tie the team score at two. Rielley fell behind 4-1 in the first set on the way to a 6-1 loss and appeared destined for the same fate in the second when she fell behind 3-0. However, the Notre Dame sophomore answered with four straight games to take a 4-3 lead. She would lead 5-4, but Lui, who has dropped just one dual match all season, held and then broke at 5-5 to go ahead 6-5. She held off Rielley in the final game that featured numerous deuces. Rielley fell to 18-13 on the campaign and 12-10 in dual play.
As Rielley was battling Lui at 6-5 in the second, Katie Potts was fighting off Suzie Matzenauer in a second set tiebreaker at No. 6. Potts was broken at 4-5 in the first set to fall behind, but earned early breaks in the second to take 1-0 and 4-3 leads. The Irish junior had a chance to serve for the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5 but could not convert to win the second set, which featured eight breaks of serve. Potts fell behind 5-2 in the tiebreaker before winning five straight points to earn the split. The turning point in the team match came in the first game of the third set of Potts’s match. With the team score knotted and Buck and Tefft still in their matches at the top two positions, Potts held a 40-0 lead in the initial game of the final set before Matzenauer came roaring back to take the game. Potts never recovered and dropped the set 6-0. Her record fell to 18-9 on the year as she saw her five match winning streak halted.
Moments after Potts’s loss, Northwestern clinched the win when third-ranked Maria Mosolova outlasted Kelcy Tefft at No.1 by a 6-1, 7-5 count. Tefft lost four of the first five games of the match and fell quickly before rebounding in the second. A break in the first game of the set gave the junior an early lead, but the Wildcat freshman would respond by earning a break to tie the set at four. A long game at 4-5 kept Tefft in it as she held her serve. She could not duplicate that feat at 5-6 however as Mosolova sent Tefft to her fifth loss of the spring. Tefft’s overall record stands at 22-8. Wednesday marked just the second time all season that Tefft and Krisik, Notre Dame’s leaders in singles victories, lost in the same match. The other occurrence came against #2 Georgia Tech.
The Wildcats came out firing in doubles, especially at the No. 2 position. Alexis Conill and Rose jumped out to a 5-0 lead over Krisik and Kristen Rafael and never looked back. The Wildcat pair cruised to the 8-1 win to spoil Rafael’s return to the lineup. Krisik and Rafael, who were playing together for the first time since a March 24 match at SMU, saw their three match winning streak snapped as they fell to 6-6 on the year.
The nation’s #1 team of Buck and Tefft picked up their teammates as they jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in their match against Murray and Lui, ranked 13th in the country. Four consecutive holds ran the score to 5-2 before Buck and Tefft closed by earning the final three games to take the 8-2 win. The Irish pair is now 9-4 this season against ranked teams including 3-3 against teams ranked in the top 15. Their overall record stands at 30-5 on the season and 19-3 in dual play.
The doubles point would come down to the No. 3 match, a barnburner with Rielley and Ciobanu matched up against Mosolova and Ghazal. The visitors appeared to be in control with a 4-1 advantage, but the Irish stormed back, winning five games in a row and breaking the Wildcats twice in the process. Northwestern held to make it 6-5, but Rielley responded with a clutch hold to put the Irish on the brink of victory. The sophomore duo battled out of a 30-15 hole in the match’s final game to earn yet another break and secure a key doubles point. Rielley and Ciobaniu extended their team-best winning streak to ten matches and improved their record to 17-1, including 9-1 at the No. 3 position.
Notre Dame handed Northwestern just its fourth doubles loss of the season and has now taken the doubles point from each of the top two teams in the nation (Northwestern and Georgia Tech).
The Irish will look to put forth another strong effort when they return to the courts this weekend to wrap up the regular season against DePaul and Marquette. First serve against the Blue Demons is set for Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. while the clash with the Golden Eagles will take place Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Both matches will take place at the Courtney Tennis Center.