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ND Women’s Tennis: Young Irish team has holes to fill this season

Dan Tapetillo | Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Notre Dame heads into the 2006-07 season after placing fifth in the final ITA rankings – its best finish since becoming a Division I program in 1985-86. The Irish earned the mark after ending the year with a 27-2 record and reaching the NCAA quarterfinals.

“It was an incredible year and I was definitely glad to be a part of it,” Notre Dame senior Catrina Thompson said. “Everyone was such a delight to work with.”

Several changes have been made in the team’s staff and lineup over the summer – a challenge as Notre Dame lost seniors Lauren Connelly, Kiki Stastny and Kelly Nelson.

Connelly, the team captain last season, competed in doubles with Stastny at No. 3. The duo ended the season 37-6.

Although Nelson only competed in two dual matches last season, she provided necessary wins for the team by finishing 2-0 and 13-2 in 2006.

“All three [seniors] will be missed,” senior Christian Thompson said. “It’ll be very hard to replace [Connelly and Stastny] in doubles because we could always count on them for a win in several close matches last season.”

Notre Dame also lost its assistant head coach Michelle Dasso after she accepted a position as the head coach at Illinois.

“[Dasso] was a huge part of our success last season and the team knows she will make a great coach at Illinois,” sophomore Katie Potts said.

Despite these losses, Notre Dame returns several key players – making the Irish a threat once again this season.

Leading the pack are the Thompson twins, who claimed the school’s first-ever title in an ITA national championship last October. After peaking at No. 1 in the ITA rankings last season, the sisters finished the season at No. 10 and with a 22-7 record.

This summer, the Thompsons also claimed two professional tournaments in doubles. They were able to compete and maintain their collegiate eligibility by not accepting prize money.

“This past summer is really going to help their confidence.” Potts said. “[The Thompsons] are going to have an incredible year.”

Also returning is junior Brook Buck, who played at No. 3 singles last season. Buck earned the ITA doubles title with teammate Kelcy Tefft and will compete in the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships Oct. 5-8 in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

The final returnee is Potts, who competed at No. 6 for the team last season and finished 23-2 in dual matches.

Joining the team this season are Cosmina Ciobanu, Colleen Rielley and Kali Krisik. These incoming freshmen were ranked as the nation’s top class by TennisRecruiting.net. The three combined for one doubles and five singles titles in ITA events this summer.

“We’re hoping to build upon the success we had last year,” Christian Thompson said. “The freshman class won several singles titles this summer and I know they are going to really add depth for us.”