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#20 Women's Tennis Falls To Miami In BIG EAST Final

April 21, 2002

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 37 Miami in the finals of the BIG EAST Championship Sunday morning at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex in Coral Gables, Fla. The top-seeded Irish were making their seventh consecutive appearance in the title match and were seeking their fifth championship since joining the conference in 1996. They are now 16-3 in BIG EAST Championship play, with all three losses coming to Miami in the finals.

Notre Dame (14-13) got off to a strong start, winning two of the three doubles contests to take the first point of the match. The No. 3 team of sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) and freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) provided the clinching victory for the Irish, rallying from a 6-5 deficit to claim the 8-6 win over UM’s Sara Robbins and Staci Stevens. Earlier, senior Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) and junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) were victorious at the No. 1 spot, registering an 8-4 win over the Hurricanes’ Marcy Hora and Mari Toro.

Miami (13-6) recovered well after losing the doubles point, taking the first set in four singles matches, including the top three flights. Robbins pulled the Hurricanes even with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Connelly at No. 6, and the 63rd-ranked Toro put the hosts in front soon afterwards when she downed senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 6-1, 6-3 at the No. 1 position. Varnum, ranked No. 112 in the nation, came into the contest having lost just once in seven previous BIG EAST Championship singles matches.

Notre Dame looked to fight back, as senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) rallied after losing the first set of her No. 2 singles match with Hora, leading 5-2 and on serve in the second set. Hora then broke the Irish veteran’s serve twice and won four consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead before Vaughan won to forced a tiebreaker. There, Hora won by a narrow 7-5 score to give Miami a key third win.

Like Vaughan, Green was poised to send her No. 3 singles match with Stevens to a third set, seizing the momentum with a service break to pull even at 5-5. But, Stevens recovered and broke Green to get back on serve, where she clinched the match and the BIG EAST title for UM.

Salas, ranked 123rd in the nation, and Cunha had won the first set of their singles matches at the No. 4 and No. 5 flights, respectively. However, those matches were abandoned once the Hurricanes were assured of the league crown.

Notre Dame now will wait to see if it is selected to participate in the NCAA Championships when the 64-team field is announced May 2. The Irish have advanced to the NCAA tournament in eight of the last nine seasons, reaching the round of 16 the last two years. The first two rounds of the NCAA Championships will take place May 11-12 at campus sites around the country, with the finals to be held May 16-25 on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, Calif.

#37 Miami 4, #20 Notre Dame 1
No. 1: #63 Mari Toro (M) d. #112 Becky Varnum (ND) 6-1, 6-3
No. 2: Marcy Hora (M) d. Nina Vaughan (ND), 6-0, 7-6 (7-5)
No. 3: *Staci Stevens (M) d. Lindsey Green (ND), 6-4, 7-5
No. 4: #123 Alicia Salas (ND) vs. Sihem Bennacer (M), 7-6 (7-3), 4-5, abandoned
No. 5: Katie Cunha (ND) vs. Ewelina Skaza (M), 6-4, 3-6, 1-0, abandoned
No. 6: Sara Robbins (M) d. Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) 6-2, 6-1
No. 1: Cunha/Green (ND) d. Hora/Toro (M) 8-4
No. 2: Igna deVilliers/Abby Smith (M) d. Varnum/Vaughan (ND) 8-4
No. 3: *Connelly/Salas (ND) d. Robbins/Stevens (M), 8-6
* indicates clinching victory

— ND —