After an impressive showing in the first two rounds of the Big East Championship, the women’s tennis team fell short in the finals to Notre Dame, the No. 2 team in the country. The Fighting Irish captured their second straight Big East championship with a 4-1 victory over the Bulls at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts on Sunday.
Notre Dame (24-1, 5-0) handed the Bulls (16-5, 4-1) their first Big East loss in doubles play, as the Fighting Irish finished undefeated in doubles during the tournament. Notre Dame then won three of four singles matches to clinch the Big East title, the seventh in school history.
“(Notre Dame is) really good. They’ve beaten some good opponents,” coach Agustin Moreno said. “Going into the match we knew that they were great in doubles. Today we had a chance, but they closed out their matches.”
Courtney Vernon defeated Notre Dame’s Christian Thompson 6-2, 6-1 and finished with an 18-0 record. Her record should be enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 12, but will have to wait until May 3 when NCAA announces the seed placements.
“We tried our hardest, and nobody left anything on the court,” Vernon said. “We did what we were supposed to do, but (Notre Dame) was a little too tough today. We had our chances to win but just didn’t do it.”
The No. 37 Bulls won their first two tournament matches against West Virginia and Louisville with 4-0 shutouts. The doubles play of Neyssa Etienne and Gabriela Duch set the tone for the Bulls as they won both of the matches 8-1. According to the Fila Collegiate Doubles Rankings, the duo is ranked No. 10.
Liz Cruz won two of her singles matches to lead USF in victories during the tournament. After finishing the regular season with an impressive 15-2 record, the sophomore defeated West Virginia’s Stacy Percival 6-1, 6-1, then Louisville’s Bianca Gorbea 6-0, 6-2 to help the team to the championship round.
Cruz, ranked No. 75, may have improved her chances of qualifying for the NCAA singles tournament with her performance in the Big East Tournament. Along with Cruz, No. 57 Vernon and No. 63 Etienne have a chance to become the first trio to make the tournament in school history.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make it; it depends on how the rankings work,” Cruz said. “It would be great if we all made it, and I’m just going to wait until next week to see how I’m ranked.”