March 9, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team won its sixth consecutive match Saturday afternoon, defeating Air Force, 5-2 at the Cadet Gymnasium Indoor Tennis Courts in Colorado Springs, Colo. For the second time in as many matches, the Irish lost the doubles point, but rallied to win the bottom five singles matches to gain the victory. Highlighting the win were three-set singles victories by sophomores Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) and Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind.). Notre Dame improved to 10-5, while Air Force fell to 8-5. The Irish return to action Friday, March 15, when they visit No. 48 San Diego State for a 2 p.m. (PST) match with the Aztecs.
“I thought we played well in singles and fought hard, especially since we had to adjust to the altitude,” Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback said. “This is a great place to go and play. It’s a tough environment and Air Force played very well.”
Saturday’s tussle with Air Force began on a sour note for Notre Dame, as the Irish dropped two of three doubles matches. Neighbours and senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) lost an 8-6 decision at the No. 1 flight to Brooke Parsons and Laura Nigro, while the Falcons’ No. 2 doubles team of Heather Shelby and Gina Black remained unbeaten (12-0) this season, fighting off a spirited charge by the Irish tandem of senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) and junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) to post an 8-6 victory. Salas and freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) salvaged a doubles win for Notre Dame, blanking Kelli O’Bryant and Ashley Gee, 8-0, at the No. 3 flight.
The Irish quickly evened the match at one point apiece when Cunha rolled past Gee, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 4 singles. However, Air Force bounced back and reclaimed a 2-1 match lead when Parsons toppled Varnum, 6-4, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles contest. From there, Notre Dame seized control with a pair of straight-set wins from Salas at the No. 3 flight (7-6, 6-3 over Nigro) and Connelly at the No. 5 flight (7-5, 6-4 over O’Bryant). Vaughan then sealed the comeback victory for the Irish, outlasting Shelby in a third-set tiebreak to claim the 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) win at No. 2 singles. After the match had been decided, Neighbours tacked on her first win of the spring season, rallying from one set down to defeat Black at the No. 6 flight by a 6-7 (1-7), 6-2, 1-0 (10-7) count.
#18 Notre Dame 5, Air Force 2
No. 1: Brooke Parsons (AF) d. #63 Becky Varnum (ND) 6-4, 6-3
No. 2: #110 Nina Vaughan (ND) d. Heather Shelby (AF) 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4)
No. 3: Alicia Salas (ND) d. Laura Nigro (AF) 7-6, 6-3
No. 4: Katie Cunha (ND) d. Ashley Gee (AF) 6-2, 6-2
No. 5: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Kelli O’Bryant (AF) 7-5, 6-4
No. 6: Emily Neighbours (ND) d. Gina Black (AF) 6-7 (1-7), 6-2, 1-0 (10-7)
No. 1: Nigro/Parsons (AF) d. Neighbours/Varnum (ND) 8-3
No. 2: Black/Shelby (AF) d. Cunha/Vaughan (ND) 8-6
No. 3: Connelly/Salas (ND) d. Gee/O’Bryant (AF) 8-0