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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish win conference title

Chris Allen | Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The No. 5 Irish dominated conference play this weekend, defeating West Virginia, Syracuse and DePaul by a combined score of 18-0 to win the Big East Championship trophy at Notre Dame’s Courtney Tennis Center. The title was Notre Dame’s third straight and 10th in 15 years.
The Irish (22-3) easily defeated lower-ranked foes West Virginia and Syracuse on their way to the title match.
The championship match marked the third time Notre Dame faced the Blue Demons this spring. The Irish won each of the previous meetings 6-1.
In the title match, DePaul’s doubles teams came out strong, playing solid tennis and pushing the top Irish duo of sophomore Kristy Frilling and senior Kali Krisik to a close 8-6 decision with Notre Dame ultimately securing the victory.
The Irish clinched the doubles point when freshman Chrissie McGaffigan and junior Kristen Rafael scored a 6-2 win at third doubles.
“Our third team won quickly which made things easier, and they’ve been playing well since we put them together,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “But [Depaul’s] doubles teams came out really strong, and they were much tougher than the last time we played them, especially their second team.”
Several strong singles performances paced the Irish against DePaul, who spent a good portion of the season in the Top 25.
Senior Cosmina Ciobanu, whose strong play at fourth singles paced the Irish all season, finished her match against Sandra Zmak first, pulling off a 6-2, 6-1 victory, closely followed by 16th-ranked Frilling winning her match at first singles over 79th-ranked Anna Redesci by the score of 6-1, 6-2, to put the Irish within one point of the title.
The clinching point came from senior Kali Krisik, whose 6-4 6-3 victory over Gia McKnight capped a tournament when she went a combined 6-0 in singles and doubles matches en route to winning the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award and her seventh straight contest.
“It was great because usually the top singles player wins the award, but it was nice for her to get it,” Louderback said. “Most of all it was nice to get her back and playing at full health.”
The enormity of the feat and the fact that it took place at home made the victory extra special for the Irish squad.
“Playing DePaul for the third time was really tough,” Louderback said. “But our kids have been working on playing with poise and to win it at home was really nice.”
The tournament win clinched Notre Dame a place in the NCAA Tournament starting May 14. Louderback said he believes the endurance the girls showed in the Big East tilt, as well as the potential opportunity to host tournament games in South Bend, gives the Irish as good chance at advancing far into the tournament.
“Playing three days in a row, which is something we’ll have to do in the NCAA’s, was something that will really help us prepare,” Louderback said.
Notre Dame is in the running to host the NCAA first and second rounds for the second straight year, but will not find out the early-round locations and pairings until early May.