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Women’s Tennis: No. 2 rank puts foes on guard

Dan Tapetillo | Friday, March 10, 2006

After earning their highest national ranking in school history, the No. 2 Irish are expecting their competitors to step it up a notch over the next few weeks to challenge the team. The tests begin today with a matchup against No. 49 Western Michigan (8-2) at the Eck Tennis Pavilion at 3:30 p.m.

“We are now targets because of how high we are ranked,” junior Christian Thompson said. “So we are expecting everyone [we] go up against to be playing great tennis.”

Last Sunday, the Irish (11-0) defeated then-No. 49 Illinois 7-0 and earned their fifth shutout of the year. With the win, Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to 12 matches.

“It was a solid win for us because everyone had great matches, and it was a big confidence builder,” senior Kelly Nelson said. “We are looking to continue this level of intensity that we have been bringing to every match all season.”

Despite the dominance the Irish had against the Illini, the doubles pairing of Christian and Catrina Thompson suffered its second loss of the season against the unranked duo of Macall Harkins and Emily Wang.

But the team’s other two doubles teams won their matches, and Notre Dame is now 11-for-11 in claiming the doubles point this season.

“Catrina and I had difficulties communicating, and the loss was more mental than anything,” Christian Thompson said. “But we are hoping we have learned from the loss and pull out a win against [Western Michigan].”

The Irish are the only program in the nation to post three teams ranked in the top-50. The No. 4 pairing of Catrina and Christian Thompson has led the Irish at No. 1 for most of the season and currently stand at 8-2 this season. Following at No. 2 is the No. 39 twosome of sophomore Brook Buck and freshman Kelcy Tefft. The last ranked team for the Irish at No. 3 is the No. 46 duo of seniors Kiki Stastny and captain Lauren Connelly.

“We are hoping to always head into singles with the doubles point because it really helps out the team mentally,” Nelson said. “It also causes the other teams to feel like they are at a disadvantage heading into the singles matches.”

In their match against the Broncos, the Irish are hoping to continue their winning streak.

Western Michigan is led by senior Rattiya Hiranrat, who is heading into the match after breaking a school record with her 100th doubles win. Hiranrat is also currently 14 wins away from passing Frederika Girsang’s school record for total wins at 196.

Other Broncos who stand at 100 wins or more are seniors Malena Remynse, Reedhina Parekh, junior Carrie Jeanmaire and sophomore Noriko Saruta.

“They definitely have a great record and are moving up in the rankings, but we just feel like we are heading into the match with so much momentum,” Christian Thompson said. “All we need to do is concentrate and play hard.”