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Notre Dame stays poised under pressure, outlasts Illinois

Dan Tapetillo and Ann Loughery | Thursday, April 14, 2005

For the third consecutive match, No. 26 Notre Dame (12-8) pulled out a 4-3 victory.

It took a third set match from junior Lauren Connelly for the Irish to pull beat No. 54 Illinois (10-8) at the Atkins Tennis Center. Illinois’ season has been punctuated with both success and failure.

Last weekend, the Illini notched a win against Michigan State 5-2 but fell to No. 38 Michigan, 4-3, in a tight match. Like Notre Dame, Illinois is a team that has struggled to convert close matches into victories as they logged their seventh 4-3 decision against Michigan last weekend.

“Illinois has struggled some this year,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “But they’re especially tough at home.

“I think winning the doubles point against William and Mary last weekend was a huge confidence builder for our kids. I’m looking forward to seeing how the kids play.”

Last weekend, the Irish (11-8) upset No. 16 William and Mary 4-3 on Saturday and No. 35 Indiana 4-3 on Sunday, extending their three-match winning streak.

Especially heartening, both victories were decided in the final matches of the meet. The Irish have struggled to remain poised under pressure in the past, as they have won just one of ten 4-3 matches over the last two seasons (0-5 this spring).

“I was really proud of how all of our kids played,” Louderback said. “But [junior Kiki Stastny] really came through for us. She really played tough against a girl at the Indiana match who didn’t make any errors and hit big. But Kiki started coming to the net more and really finished her off.”

Louderback said he is looking for similar impressive performances all the way down the lineup against Northwestern.

Northwestern looks to be just as – if not more – challenging than Illinois. Thriving on an eight-match winning streak, Northwestern’s strength lies in doubles – just like Notre Dame.

The doubles matches at each position will be nothing short of fierce. The No. 4 duo of sophomores Catrina and Christian Thompson will challenge No. 1 Audra Cohen and Christelle Grier at the No. 1 position, while junior Lauren Connelly and Brook Buck will face No. 36 Alexis Prousis and Kristi Roemer.

“[Northwestern] looks like they’re going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Louderback said. “This will be a good weekend to help us get ready for the Big East because we’re still fighting for the No. 1 or 2 seed at regionals for the NCAA’s.”