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No. 27 Irish record big wins against Marquette, Miami

Anne Loughery | Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Jay Louderback isn’t one to underestimate Notre Dame’s opponents.

Heading into last weekend’s meets against Marquette and No. 18 Miami, the Irish coach predicted challenging matches. Sure enough, both teams turned on the pressure.

But the Irish (10-6) didn’t wilt under the spotlight. Against Marquette (3-14), No. 27 Notre Dame relinquished just 14 games in singles, sweeping both singles and doubles for a quick 7-0 win. Sunday’s meet against Miami (13-3) spurred Notre Dame to the top of the Big East standings after a 5-2 win against the Hurricanes. For the eighth time in nine years, the Irish are nearly guaranteed the first seed in the Big East Championship, which begin April 29.

The Golden Eagles were first to challenge the hard-nosed Irish on Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame claimed an early lead 1-0 after sweeping doubles for the fifth time this season. At No. 2, senior co-captain Alicia Salas and sophomore Lauren Connelly bounced back from a 3-2 deficit to walk off the courts with an 8-4 win. Their victory against Annabelle Espinosa and Genevieve Charron upped the duo’s record to 10-5 in dual matches.

Senior Emily Neighbours and sophomore Kiki Stastny, paired together for the first time Sunday, recorded their first win at No. 3. Their clinching win came against Andrea Bukacek and Dominika Dabrowski 8-3. For the majority of the season, Stastny has competed with junior Sarah Jane Connelly at No. 3. Louderback said he has experimented with different combinations of players at No. 3, piecing together a solid lineup in preparation for the Big East tournament.

“Emily has played well in practice lately and has worked hard this year. We thought she was very deserving of a chance to compete,” Louderback said.

In singles, Sarah Jane Connelly broke her four-match losing streak, topping Bukacek 6-1, 6-0 at No. 6. No. 92 Catrina Thompson followed up, quickly massacring Smith 6-0, 6-0. Clinching the win for the Irish was Christian Thompson, who trounced Charron at No. 2 6-0, 6-0. At No. 4, Lauren Connelly added to Notre Dame’s success, defeating Espinosa 6-0, 6-3.

Stastny and No. 10 Salas rounded out the win for the Irish, each contributing individual victories. Stastny bested Dabrowski 6-1, 6-4 at No. 5 and Salas beat Garcia Briseno 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1.

Notre Dame faced rival Miami next on Sunday afternoon. Although the Hurricanes extended two singles matches to tiebreakers, the Irish came out on top 5-2. No. 3 Neighbours and Stastny were first off the courts, dropping their match 8-1 to Banada and Mari Toro. Catrina and Christian Thompson contributed the first win at No. 1 doubles, upsetting No. 22 Melissa Applebaum and Megan Bradley 8-6. Salas and Lauren Connelly matched their win with a 8-6 defeat of Staci Stevens and Sara Robbins 8-6 at No. 2. The pair rebounded from a 6-5 deficit in the match.

The Irish demonstrated their staying power with an early 3-0 lead in singles. Sarah Jane Connelly was first to complete her match, winning at No. 6 versus Bennacer 6-3, 6-0. Sister Lauren Connelly registered the next Irish victory, beating Stevens at No. 4.

Miami’s only points came from wins at Nos. 1 and 3. No. 4 Salas was edged 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 and Toro outlasted Catrina Thompson 6-0, 7-6 (7-5).

At No. 5, Stastny garnered the clinching win, putting the Irish ahead 4-3 with two singles matches still on the courts. Stastny’s 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 snapped Banada’s 21-match winning streak. Louderback cited Stastny as an individual that stepped up her game during the meet.

Louderback said that he noticed an extra spark in the team’s play as their matches winded down. Case in point: Christian Thompson knocked off Melissa Applebaum at No. 2 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 to complete the win for the Irish.

“All of our kids really played well at the end of their matches, which is something we’ve been working on in practice,” Louderback said. “We’re not doing as many drills, but we’re playing more sets. The more we play in practice, the better we play in our meets.”

The Irish will be on the road next weekend at No. 37 William and Mary.

on Saturday.

Contact Ann Loughery at alougher@nd.edu