Blue Demons Finish Second at BIG EAST Championship
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The No. 30 DePaul women's tennis team took home the BIG EAST Conference second place trophy after falling to No. 5 Notre Dame, 4-0 on Sunday at Notre Dame's Ecks Tennis Pavilion. Sunday's showdown was a rematch of the 2009 Championship which also saw the Irish claim the BIG EAST's automatic NCAA berth while it will make tournament for the 17th time.
With the BIG EAST Championship on the line -- both teams came to the courts motivated, the Irish were looking for their 10th league championship, while the Blue Demons were looking for their first and first ever berth to the NCAA Championship.
Playing Notre Dame for the second time in nine days and third time this season, head coach Mark Ardizzone knew what his team was up against. "To beat Notre Dame we had to execute better than them. The thing about Notre Dame is that they have three things that are hard to beat - they are well coached, they have great players and those players play really hard."
"I am proud of our team today. They are the hardest working group I have ever coached. They constantly work hard and they deserve everything they get. We made it back to the finals and I would love to make that an annual tradition with Notre Dame."
Playing the championship match in front of a large Notre Dame crowd, the Blue Demons battled the Irish as well as the packed house.
With all three doubles courts hitting big serves and unbelievable shots it was ND that won the third doubles match 8-2, but the first and second courts continued to entertain the packed crowd.
Katarina Milinkovic and Sandra Zmak fell behind 7-6, but were able to break Cosmina Ciobanu and Shannon Mathwes serve to knot the second match at seven all. At the same time, DePaul's No. 19 pair of Anna Redecsi and Selma Salkovic had worked themselves out of a three game deficit and tied the number one match at six.
"We really wanted to win," senior Redecsi said following the match. "When we looked over and saw how hard Katarina (Milinkovic) and Sandra (Zmak) were playing and we did not want to lose."
"This is a great Notre Dame team and we played them really tough," Salkvoic added.
With both courts drawing cheers from the grandstands it was Notre Dame's No. 3 pair of Kristy Frilling and Kali Krisik that claimed an 8-6 victory on the first court which gave the Irish at 1-0 lead heading into singles action.
After playing an emotional doubles point, both teams settled into singles and all the matches were within one or two games, before the Irish went to work and won the first set on all six courts.
The Irish took a 2-0 lead when Ciobanu overtook Zmak 6-2, 6-1 in the fourth match. After Redecsi won a three-set thriller over Frilling nine days ago; the Irish's top player defeated Redecsi 6-1, 6-2 to give ND a 3-0 advantage.
Notre Dame claimed its 10th league championship when Kali Krisik defeated Gia McKnight 6-4, 6-3 on the fifth court. It was McKnight's first loss of the Championship as the sophomore won her matches against both Louisville and USF.
With Notre Dame claiming its fifth straight win over DePaul in two years, Ardizzone could not complain about his team's season. "Look we are 40-10 in the last two seasons with five of those losses coming against Notre Dame. I would have to say going 40-5 against the rest of the country is pretty good in the last two years."
As this DePaul team continues to make history - playing the program's toughest schedule, reaching a program-best No. 21 in the Campbell's/ITA Rankings another first could be on the horizon for this unbelievable Blue Demon squad.
DePaul will await the NCAA Selection announcement on Tuesday, May 4. ESPNews will broadcast a special tennis selection show between 4-5 p.m. (CST) while the bracket for the singles and doubles Championship will be announced on May 5 at 5 p.m.
"Making history is always good, we started last season and this season we continued," Salkovic added.
This is a great group of women to make history with and I am happy to be part of it."
#5 Notre Dame 4, #30 DePaul 0