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Women’s Tennis: Big East champions prepare for title run

Dan Tapetillo | Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The newly crowned Big East champion Notre Dame will head into the NCAA tournament starting May 13 with hopes of capturing the national title.

Not only did the No. 2 Irish earn the conference title in Tampa, Fla. April 23, they excelled on the individual level as well. Irish coach Jay Louderback earned his sixth Big East Coach-of-the-Year Award, and junior Catrina Thompson repeated as the tournament’s MVP.

“It was great to repeat the Big East victory because the conditions were extremely tough and playing on South Florida’s home turf [in the finals] was definitely to their advantage,” Irish junior Christian Thompson said. “But we played well and everyone got the job done.

In the conference championships, Catrina Thompson cruised to her second consecutive singles MVP title while dropping only five games throughout the tournament.

“She goes out to every match and competes at her best,” Christian Thompson said. “She made a significant impact both years during the regular season and the tournaments [Big East Championships and the NCAA tournament].”

However, it was Louderback who guided Thompson and the rest of her teammates to the title and the successful regular season this year. Notre Dame went from being ranked No. 22 in the preseason to No. 2 after the Big East tournament and is 24-1 so far this season. Louderback is No. 7 among active NCAA Division-I women’s tennis coaches in career victories and is just the 10th coach ever to reach 500 career wins.

“The seniors this year won three out of four Big East titles [during their collegiate career] and that is pretty special,” Christian Thompson said. “Before this season’s [Big East championships, Louderback] read us a printed article that said South Florida was going to walk away with the title and this really inspired us to prove them wrong.”

After earning the title, the Irish are focused on the NCAA Tournament. The first two rounds will be played on campus sites from May 12-13 and the final four will be held at Stanford from May 18-21.

The NCAA pairings will be held at 8:30 p.m. with the Irish hoping to be one of the four initial sites for the first rounds of the tournament.

“We have had a great season and hope it will help us to be able to play at home during the first two rounds,” Christian Thompson said. “This week we are working hard and hope the tough practices and conditioning will lead us into the NCAA’s with a lot of confidence.”