April 7, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Combe Indoor Tennis Center)
Score: No. 16 Northwestern 4, No. 20 Notre Dame 3
Records: NU (12-5, 4-0 Big Ten) Notre Dame (11-9, 0-1 Big East)
Next NU Event: Saturday, April 9 vs. Iowa Evanston 11 a.m. CT INDOORS
EVANSTON, Ill. -- To say the Wildcats had their backs against the wall down 3-0 to No. 20 Notre Dame only hints at the challenge they were presented with Thursday evening, a challenge they managed to overcome in compelling fashion. Led by Maria Mosolova's upset of third-ranked Kristy Frilling, Northwestern clawed out wins in the final four singles matches remaining on the courts to rally for a 4-3 victory at the Combe Tennis Center.
"I'm impressed with how we battled in a difficult match, full credit to Notre Dame for getting on top of us," said head coach Claire Pollard. "Mentally I don't think we were as tough as we needed to be early in the match, but once the match got really tight I was pleased with our strength mentally. We've relied on our doubles point and been so comfortable with it but it was just a bad day there, so I thought Maria's match really shifted the momentum in our favor."
Even after Mosolova dominated the third set against the highly ranked Frilling -- closing her 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 win with four straight aces -- there was still much work to be done with the No. 2, 5 and 6 singles matches all in third sets. But freshman Belinda Niu and junior Stacey Lee both pulled away down the stretch, leaving sophomore Linda Abu Mushrefova to polish off the comeback with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory at the No. 6 spot.
For Mosolova, the win over Frilling snapped a two-match losing streak to the Fighting Irish junior.
The Wildcats found themselves behind 1-0 entering singles for only the fourth time this season and had yet to win a dual in which it had lost the doubles point. NU did take one match at the No. 3 position, where Elena Chernyakova and Brittany Wowchuk seized early control on Jennifer Kellner and Julie Sabacinski, leading 4-1. Kellner and Sabacinski were never able to mount a serious challenge as the Wildcats won the first match off the courts, 8-3, and improved to 7-1 as a doubles team this season.
Northwestern's seventh-ranked doubles tandem of Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton got off to a slow start on the No. 1 line, trailing 2-0 and 4-1 in the early going to No. 22 Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews. An authoritative slam at the net by Abu Mushrefova cut into NU's deficit and set the score at 4-2, but the Irish came back with a hold to stay on serve up 5-2. Frilling and Mathews went on to pull off the upset, 8-3, and leave the doubles point to be determined at No. 2.
In that match, Northwestern's Maria Mosolova and Belinda Niu used a hold of serve to break a three-all tie against Kristen Rafael and Chrissie McGaffigan, but the Irish pair fought off a number of break points in the ensuing game to hold their own serve and pull even at four. Rafael and McGaffigan notched a critical break three games later to go up 6-5 and soon after nabbed a 7-5 advantage.
NU staved off defeat thanks to three straight winners by Mosolova, bringing the score in the eight-game pro-set back to 7-6 Notre Dame. The `Cats rallied to a 40-30 lead after falling behind 0-30, but ultimately lost the game and the match, 8-6.
Northwestern came out looking to assert itself in singles but met more stern tests from Notre Dame. The visitors posted wins by Jennifer Kellner and Kristen Rafael at No. 3 and 4, respectively, to claim what some may have believed to be an insurmountable 3-0 advantage.
But Mosolova was having success in her No. 1 matchup with Frilling, despite having fallen in a 4-0 hole to start the match. Mosolova won the last six games of the set but could not carry the momentum into the next set, where Frilling was a 6-2 victor. The three-time NU All-American came out rejuvenated in the decisive set, however, rarely missing early on and serving out the match in style for her 13th consecutive dual singles win.
Niu followed the same recipe for victory as Mosolova, bouncing back after dropping the second set by coasting past 63rd-ranked Shannon Mathews in the third set, 6-1, to even the team score at two apiece.
In order to keep Northwestern's hopes for a comeback alive, Stacey Lee and Linda Abu Mushrefova each had to respond after dropping 6-3 outcomes in their respective first sets. At No. 6, Abu Mushrefova did so in the second set against Sabacinski by getting off to a 4-1 lead. She was caught down the stretch as Sabacinski evened the frame at five, only to have the NU sophomore win consecutive games to send the match to a deciding set. She distanced herself in the third and ultimately was responsible for NU's fourth point with her eighth dual win of the season.
"I was nervous but it also helped knowing that I had to win," Abu Mushrefova said. "I knew I had to step it up so I just tried to dig deep and fight it out."
Likewise, Lee bounced back from her opening-set loss to Chrissie McGaffigan by winning four of the first five games in the second to cruise to win the frame, 6-2. Lee led 3-0 in the third and, after McGaffigan cut it to 3-2, closed the match with four straight games to finish just ahead of Abu Mushrefova's clinching victory.
After a day away from competition Friday, Northwestern will be back in action on Saturday when it hosts Big Ten foe Iowa, with start time scheduled for 11 a.m. Matchday Update: This match will be played indoors at the Combe Tennis Center.
No. 16 Northwestern 4, No. 20 Notre Dame 3
1: #16 Maria Mosolova (NU) def. #3 Kristy Frilling (ND), 6-4, 2-6, 6-1
2: #74 Belinda Niu (NU) def. #63 Shannon Mathews (ND), 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
3: #105 Jennifer Kellner (ND) def. #92 Kate Turvy (NU), 6-3, 6-1
4: Kristen Rafael (ND) def. #50 Brittany Wowchuk (NU), 6-3, 6-3
5: Stacey Lee (NU) def. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND), 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
6: Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) def. Julie Sabacinski (ND), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2
1: #22 Frilling/Mathews (ND) def. #7 Abu Mushrefova/Hamilton (NU), 8-3
2: McGaffigan/Rafael (ND) def. Mosolova/Niu (NU), 8-6
3: Chernyakova/Wowchuk (NU) def. Kellner/Sabacinski (ND), 8-3
Order of Finish:
Singles: (3, 4, 1, 2, 5, 6*)
Doubles: (3, 1, 2*)
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