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ND Women’s Tennis: Irish struggle without Thompson, fall 6-1 to Tennessee

Anne Loughery | Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Irish have seen better days.

Last Friday in the absence of sophomore Christian Thompson, the No. 25 Irish (6-7) fell 6-1 to No. 23 Tennessee (10-3).

Christian Thompson, who plays at No. 3 singles and accounts for the other half of the No. 2 doubles team in the country, suffered a knee injury in her singles match against BYU March 13.

Coach Jay Louderback is hopeful that the sophomore will recover in time for tomorrow’s match against No. 53 Purdue (2-7), but the time of her return is still unknown.

Until then, the team is finessing the skills of its newly-formed doubles teams and modified singles lineup in anticipation of Purdue’s talent-laden lineup.

“I feel very good about our new doubles teams,” Louderback said. “The big thing will be how well we play in singles and that’s what we will be working on in practice. For us to win, our kids need to play with confidence. They have to play hard and not think about what [position] they’re playing.”

Louderback was impressed with how confidently the team played versus Tennessee last Friday, considering the lineup adjustments were made last-minute.

Prior to the Tennessee meet, Louderback modified both the doubles and singles lineup in hopes that the team’s depth would help them secure a win. Junior Kiki Stastny taking the place of Christian Thompson at No. 1 doubles with Catrina Thompson and junior Jennifer Smith taking Stastny’s place at No. 3 doubles with senior captain Sarah Jane Connelly.

In singles, Stastny assumed Christian Thompson’s position at No. 3 while junior Liz Donohue and Sarah Jane Connelly moved up to No. 5 and No. 6 singles respectively.

But in the end, the adjustments were not enough as freshman Brook Buck secured the lone point for the Irish. Buck bested Blakeley Griffith 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, improving her record to 19-7 on the season and 9-4 in dual matches.

Buck and junior Lauren Connelly did not fare as well in doubles, losing to Melissa Schaub and Ghizela Schutte at No. 2 doubles. However, the newly formed team of Sarah Jane Connelly and Smith made the match competitive, fighting for the coveted doubles point after Catrina Thompson and Stastny claimed a win at No. 1 over Sabita Maharaj and Bryce Marable 8-4.

After the duo jumped to a 7-4 advantage, it seemed likely that Sarah Jane Connelly and Jennifer Smith would secure the doubles point for the Irish. However, Tennessee’s Griffith and Ashley Robards rebounded to force a tiebreaker and won 7-2.

Although the doubles teams did not do as well as Buck had hoped, the freshman said she was proud of her teammates’ efforts.

“I never doubt that each one of us is playing our hardest at any meet,” Buck said. “Tennessee just had a better day than us.”

The Lady Vols capitalized on their early success with wins at nearly every position in singles. Tennessee’s Victoria Jones registered the first point for the Lady Vols with a win over Lauren Connelly 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4.

Marable wasn’t far behind with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Stastny at No. 3. Clinching the win for Tennessee, No. 44 Maharaj defeated No. 39 Catrina Thompson 6-1, 6-3 at No. 1.

After Tennessee had secured the win, Robards collected a victory at No. 5 over Donohue 7-6, 6-2 and Schutte defeated Sarah Jane Connelly 6-1, 7-6 at No. 6.

Despite the loss, Louderback was heartened by the team’s performance.

“When you have someone missing from the lineup, it’s hard to play confidently and to adjust,” Louderback said. “But I think we played well today. This group always plays hard; they’re always out there fighting for every match.”

The Irish will take on Purdue tomorrow at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 4 p.m.