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    'Cats Complete Improbable Comeback To Beat Notre Dame, 4-2

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Brittany Wowchuk posted one of three three-set wins for the Wildcats Saturday against Notre Dame.
    Brittany Wowchuk posted one of three three-set wins for the Wildcats Saturday against Notre Dame.

    May 12, 2012


    NCAA Regional Championship Central | NCAA Championship Bracket | NCAA Championship Program

    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Combe Tennis Center)
    Score: No. 12 Northwestern 4, No. 20 Notre Dame 2
    Records: NU (20-8, 10-1 Big Ten), UND (21-8, 8-0 BIG EAST)
    Next NU Event: Round of 16 -- Thursday, May 17 -- vs. No. 4 Stanford (Athens, Ga.), 11 a.m. CT

    EVANSTON, Ill.-- For the 12th time in 13 years the Northwestern Wildcats have advanced out of the NCAA Regional Championship round and into the round of 16 with Saturday's thrilling 4-2 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Combe Tennis Center.

    It was the second straight year that the 'Cats met the Fighting Irish in the second round. Last season, the Wildcats shutout their counterparts from South Bend, Ind., 4-0, but this time around the task would prove to be much more trying.

    "To be honest, I felt like it was a match that neither team deserved to lose," said Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard. "It was really a terrific battle and all credit goes to our kids for the way that they gutted it out today."

    During the doubles session, Notre Dame got its first win in the bank when the nation's eighth-ranked duo of Shannon Mathews and Kristy Frilling ran through Northwestern's No. 85 Linda Abu Mushrefova and Veronica Corning, 8-4. The Fighting Irish quickly won the first four games of the set and did not look back en route to the four-point victory.

    The other two matches were much, much closer. The Wildcats outlasted Notre Dame in an epic battle at No. 2, 9-7, to even the ledger at a win apiece. Northwestern's Nida Hamilton and Brittany Wowchuk converted two crucial breaks, once at 2-2 and later at 4-4 to give themselves an edge. Each time Julie Sabacinski and Britney Sanders charged back, the 'Cats were able to keep them at bay. With the score tied at seven games a piece, Hamilton and Wowchuk hunkered down rattled off two straight winners to secure the triumph.



    All eyes then shifted to the No. 3 match between NU's Kate Turvy and Belinda Niu and ND's Jenny Kellner and Chrissie McGaffigan. The Wildcats had gotten out to an early lead in the match, 3-1, but the Fighting Irish would not go away easily. After Notre Dame won three straight games to take their first lead, 4-3, the two teams battled within a point of one another for the duration. Notre Dame secured a break at 6-5 and held on the rest of the way for an 8-5 victory.

    "Notre Dame always plays the doubles point well," said Pollard. "They volley well and they are able to wear opponents down on long rallies. It was no surprise that they outlasted us today."

    The win meant that Notre Dame notched the doubles point between the two teams for the second time this season. The Irish won all three doubles bouts that day, but the 'Cats recovered to win four of six singles matches to complete an unforgettable comeback.

    As singles play began, Corning attempted the set the tone for the host Wildcats. The sophomore made incredibly quick work of Kellner in the No. 4 singles match, winning easily by scores of 6-1 and 6-0. The win evened the overall scoreboard at one point each.

    None of the other five singles tilts would be decided that easily. After being shutout in their first sets, both Hamilton and Wowchuk bounced back with a vengeance to win their second stanzas and force a third set. Hamilton beat Katherine White, 6-3, in the second, while Wowchuk bested Sanders, 6-4.

    At No. 5 singles, Abu Mushrefova surrendered a 4-1 cushion in the first set to McGaffigan and lost, 6-4, but she also stormed back to win in the second and force a decisive set in that match.

    Wowchuk completed her improbable comeback by winning the third set, 6-1. It was the second win of the season for the junior against the Fighting Irish. In the match on April 4, the Toronto, native beat Kellner, also in three sets. Wowchuk's victory gave the Wildcats their first lead of the day nearly four hours into the battle.

    Hamilton, not to be outdone by Wowchuk, also rallied back tirelessly. In the third set, Hamilton outhustled White for every point and notched a 6-2 victory to put her team up 3-1 on the scoreboard.

    "It was certainly a little unsettling when we dropped two opening sets, 6-0, but Brittany [Wowchuk] and Nida [Hamilton] really dug in and bounced back. I'm proud of the way that everyone fought today, none more than those two."

    Meanwhile, No. 122 Frilling has begun to solve Niu and she won back-to-back games (6-1, 6-3) to pull the Irish back to within a point at 3-2.

    The battle between Abu Mushrefova and McGaffigan waged on until the Notre Dame player went down with what appeared to be lower-leg cramps. After a medical timeout, Abu Mushrefova evened the score at 4-4, but McGaffigan refused to give in. The players went back-and-forth until it was 5-5, but the NU junior refused to be denied. She won the next two games to win the match, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. It was the seventh consecutive win for Abu Mushrefova, the longest active winning streak on the squad.

    With the victory, NU improves to 28-11 all-time against Notre Dame. The Wildcats have won all four meetings between the two programs in NCAA Championship play.

    The 13th seed Northwestern will move on to Athens, Ga. for the round of 16 beginning Thursday, May 17. There the 'Cats will face 4th-seeded Stanford at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. NU lost to the Cardinal last season in the round of 16 in Palo Alto, Calif., 4-2.

    For complete coverage throughout the week, check back with

    1. No. 8 Kristy Frilling/Shannon Mathews (ND) def. No. 85 Linda Abu Mushrefova/Veronica Corning (NU) - 8-4
    2. Nida Hamilton/Brittany Wowchuk (NU) def. Julie Sabacinski/Britney Sanders (ND) - 9-7
    3. Jenny Kellner/Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) def. Kate Turvy/Belinda Niu (NU) - 8-5
    Order of finish: 1, 2, 3*

    1. No. 20 Kate Turvy (NU) vs. No. 34 Shannon Mathews (ND) - 6-4, 5-7, 2-1 (unfinished)
    2. No. 122 Kristy Frilling (ND) def. Belinda Niu (NU) - 4-6, 6-1, 6-3
    3. No. 82 Brittany Wowchuk def. Britney Sanders (ND) - 0-6, 6-4, 6-1
    4. Veronica Corning (NU) def. Jenny Kellner (ND) - 6-1, 6-0
    5. Linda Abu Mushrefova (NU) vs. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) - 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
    6. Nida Hamilton (NU) def. Katherine White (ND) - 0-6, 6-3, 6-2
    Order of finish: 4, 3, 6, 2, 5*


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