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Women’s Tennis: Top seed Irish battle No. 8 Rutgers

Dan Tapetillo | Friday, April 21, 2006

The top-seeded and No. 2 Irish begin their quest to earn their seventh Big East title as they face eighth-seeded Rutgers in the quarterfinals today at 9 a.m. in Tampa, Fla. Notre Dame is not only looking to defend its title but to reach the finals – a feat they have never failed to achieve since joining the conference in 1996.

“[Notre Dame] has always done really well [in the Big East Conference Championship],” Irish junior Catrina Thompson said. “We are just looking to keep doing well here and build off all the success we had [in the regular season].”

Notre Dame earned the top seed and a first-round bye in the 12-team competition after finishing the regular season 21-1. Despite its success, the team is not looking past any competitors.

“Even though we had a great year, you can never look past who you’re playing,” Irish junior Christian Thompson said. “Everyone on the team just needs to stay focused in every match. If we do this, we are going to do really well.”

The Scarlet Knights enter the match after winning a close 4-3 contest over Marquette in the opening round of the championships on Thursday – their first Big East Tournament victory.

During the contest, the Golden Eagles took a 1-0 lead after winning two of three doubles matches. However, Rutgers was able to bounce back in singles by claiming four wins to defeat Marquette. Critical wins came from No. 1 freshman Katrina Elder-Bush, who defeated the Golden Eagle’s sophomore Beba Calbeto 7-6 (2), 7-5 and No. 2 freshman Dana Gordon, who clinched the victory for the Scarlet Knights after topping freshman Lauren Little 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

“[Rutgers] is definitely going to be ready to compete against us because we’re the top seed,” Christian Thompson said. “The top seed is always a target in big matches like the Big East.”

Notre Dame enters the contest with last year’s Big East Championship Most Outstanding Player Catrina Thompson. No. 31 Thompson enters the tournament as the highest ranked singles player in the conference. In addition to Thompson, the Irish have other players ranked – No. 80 sophomore Brook Buck and No. 99 Christian Thompson.

In doubles, Catrina and Christian Thompson are the highest ranked duo at No. 6. The Thompsons are followed by the No. 38 pairing of Buck and freshman Kelcy Tefft for the Irish.

“Our doubles is what has really set us apart from other teams this season,” Catrina Thompson said. “We haven’t lost a doubles point all season, and it has really made the difference in all of our 4-3 wins this season.”

The winner of this contest will face either fourth-seeded DePaul or fifth-seeded St. John’s on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the semifinals.