EVANSTON, Ill. -- Notre Dame beat No. 15-seed Northwestern 4-3 on Saturday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA regional. The Irish now advance to the quarterfinals later this week in Athens, Georgia.
"I am so proud of our seniors to have the opportunity to make the final 16," Irish head coach Jay Louderback said. "Julie Vrabel did an amazing job of playing each point and letting go of it when the point ended."
To start the match, the Irish were at one point tied 7-7 on all three courts but lost in doubles competition as Northwestern took an early 1-0 lead. No. 12 duo Quinn Gleason and Britney Sanders ousted No. 29 pair Veronica Corning and Alicia Barnett 8-7 earning four consecutive points at the end of the set to clinch the win.
The other Wildcat tandems of Belinda Niu and Brooke Rischbieth held off Mary Closs and Molly O'Koniewski, while Nida Hamilton and Maddie Lipp (Northwestern) bested senior duo Jennifer Kellner and Julie Sabacinski 8-7 also.
In singles competition, the match see-sawed between both teams as first Sanders won 6-4, 6-3 against Corning, then Gleason lost 6-1, 6-3 against Niu. Freshman Monica Robinson tied the match 2-2 with a two 6-1 victories, after going all three games against Manon Peri on the No. 4 singles court. Northwestern's Lok Sze Leung kept the Wildcats' hopes alive with a win over Notre Dame's Mary Closs 7-6, 6-3 upping the match score 3-2.
With a Northwestern victory almost certain, all eyes turned to the No. 3 singles court, as Kellner and Barnett fought through a third game, both eager to win. Barnett repeatedly went up on the scorecard in all three games, but Kellner came back and won, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
With the match on the line, spectators swarmed to the No. 6 court, where sophomore Julie Vrabel was tied 5-5 with Hamilton. Both tennis aces won one game apiece, and it was a fierce battle to the end as the Irish powerhouse and the Wildcat woman duked it out. Vrabel emerged victorious in a tiebreak 7-6, sealing the win for the Irish 4-3.