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Irish lock horns with pair of top-10 opponents

Dan Tapetillo | Friday, February 18, 2005

This weekend should be a challenge for the No. 21 Irish (4-2) as they prepare to face two top-10 opponents – Duke and North Carolina.The team will play against No. 6 Duke (5-1), who is fresh off a 7-0 victory over Old Dominion last Wednesday, today at 3 p.m. at the Eck Tennis Pavilion,”We are more talented than Old Dominion so I talked with [my team] about not giving [them] any kind of confidence,” Duke coach Jamie Ashworth told goduke.com after the win. “The longer they hang around you start to get close matches.”However, this is the exactly the predicament the Irish have found themselves in lately against opponents such as Harvard – unable to win the close matches. After leading the Crimson 3-1, the Irish failed to convert a win in the final three singles matches to drop the match 4-3 to Harvard.”We’ve been in every match this year,” sophomore Christian Thompson said. “But now it is about winning the close ones.”Leading the Irish today in doubles will be Christian and sister Catrina Thompson at No. 1 – they are currently ranked as the No. 2 ranked pairing in the nation. They have yet to lose a match this spring. Playing at No. 2 will be freshman Brook Buck and junior Lauren Connelly. Senior Sarah Jane Connelly and junior Kiki Stastny will play at No. 3.But Irish coach Jay Louderback wants the team to focus on more than just trying to win the doubles point and head into the singles matches with an advantage.”The doubles has been big all along,” he said. “But we have to back it up and get at least three great singles matches.”Playing at No. 1 for the team is No. 69 ranked Catrina Thompson, who defeated No. 27 ranked Courtney Bergman from Harvard last weekend.”She has been playing really well, even the matches she’s lost this spring she’s played well. She’s come up with some big wins and it is coming through into her singles,” Louderback said. “She is playing with a lot more patience and willing to hit more balls until she has a chance to finish off the points.”At No. 2 will be No. 85 Buck, followed by Christian Thompson at No. 3. Playing at No. 4 and 5 are Lauren Connelly and Stastny. At No. 6 will be junior Liz Donohue. Louderback said he is proud of the team’s performance this season. “[Stastny] and Lauren are both 5-1 in singles and they’ve been great,” Louderback said. “We have gotten a lot of wins out of them.”The Irish will take on No. 9 North Carolina this Sunday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 10 a.m. Neither team looks to be a pushover. “Both are deserving of their top-10 rankings,” Louderback said. “But we are looking at [these matches] as a way of getting a great win.”