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No. 2 Irish make case for top spot

Chris Hine | Monday, February 19, 2007

No. 2 Notre Dame made its case this weekend for a No. 1 ranking, knocking off two more top-20 teams with a 5-2 win over No. 7 North Carolina Friday and a 7-0 win Sunday over No. 20 Wake Forest.

Against the Tar Heels, the Irish stumbled out of the gate, losing the doubles point for only the second time this season. Both doubles pairings of Christian and Catrina Thompson and Brooke Buck and Kelcy Tefft dropped their matches, giving the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead.

“I was a little nervous after that,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “[Freshmen] Cosmina Ciobanu and Kali Krisik played well, but our other two doubles teams just didn’t play well.”

Luckily for Notre Dame, the Tar Heels were missing some of their players due to sickness, including No. 7 Jenna Long.

“They fought harder than we did. I thought winning the doubles point gave us some momentum, but they came out and won a bunch of first sets and took some momentum away from us,” North Carolina coach Brian Kalbas said. “I’m not so sure we would’ve won the match [if we were healthy] with the way they played singles.”

After junior Brooke Buck made quick work of Tar Heels sophomore Meg Fanjoy 6-0, 6-1, North Carolina took a 2-1 lead when Christian Thompson fell to freshman Katrina Tsang 6-3, 6-2.

No. 41 Catrina Thompson dominated Tar Heels sophomore No. 33 Austin Smith in the first set, 6-1, and staved off a comeback by Smith in the second set, winning it 7-5 and tying the score at two points apiece.

“Austin Smith played really well to stay in the match, and I was impressed with the way she played,” Louderback said.

Freshman Colleen Rielley snapped her four-match losing streak with a 6-4, 6-2, defeat of Tar Heels senior Sara Anundsen to make the score 3-2.

Then, in a match that drew the attention of the crowd gathered at the Eck Tennis Pavilion, Ciobanu fought back from a 4-1 first-set deficit and a 5-2 second-set deficit to knock off North Carolina freshman Sanaz Marand 6-4, 7-5. Ciobanu’s victory clinched the match for the Irish.

“That match was very tiring,” Ciobanu said. “I think the difference was the momentum shifts. The first set, she played unbelievable, and then I had a good game at 4-1 and started playing better.”

Tefft added the fifth point after dropping the first set to North Carolina’s Caitlin Collins, 4-6, 6-2, and 6-3.

On Sunday, the Irish made quick work of Wake Forest. The Irish grabbed all three doubles matches, and Christian Thompson and Rielley won first-set tiebreakers to boost the Irish to victory.

“I just thought we played really well all weekend,” Louderback said. “Our doubles bounced back [Sunday].”

Ciobanu preserved her perfect 10-0 dual match record and clinched the match again for the Irish.

Notre Dame has a couple of days off before it battles Iowa Sunday at home.

“We can get a couple of our kids to get a couple of days rest,” Louderback said. “We’ve had three tough matches in five days. We’ve had a few nagging injuries with some players, so it’s good to get them a few days rest.”