April 20, 2002
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – For the seventh consecutive season, the 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team will play for the BIG EAST Championship after defeating Boston College, 4-1, in the semifinal round Saturday morning at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Fla. The Irish (14-12), who are the defending conference champions and have won four titles in the last six years, will face No. 37 Miami in the championship match Sunday at 9 a.m. (EDT). UM (12-8) defeated Virginia Tech, 4-0, in Saturday’s other semifinal.
“We played well in the doubles, which was a key,” Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback said. “I thought it was important to go ahead 1-0 like we did. I didn’t think we played particualarly well in singles, but Cunha and Varnum played really well and got two fast wins. We have been up and down all year in singles.”
Senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) were double winners for Notre Dame, which improves to 12-0 all-time in non-title matches (second round & semifinals) at the BIG EAST Championship. The Irish also are now 16-2 in BIG EAST tournament play since joining the conference in 1996.
Varnum teamed with senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) for an 8-3 win at No. 2 doubles over BC’s Allison Ashley and Emily Hellberg. It was Varnum’s fifth career doubles win in six BIG EAST Championship matches. Moments later, Notre Dame wrapped up the doubles point when Salas and freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) closed out the Eagles’ Anisha Fernando and Emily Yeomans by an 8-4 count. The Salas/Connelly team continues to be the most consistent Irish pairing, moving to 14-5 this year and posting its fourth clinching victory of the season.
Junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) gave Notre Dame a two-point cushion when she opened singles play with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 5 over Fernando. Boston College got its only point of the day when Morgan Landes downed senior Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.), 6-2, 6-4 at the No. 3 flight — it marked the first time in seven years of BIG EAST Championship play that the Irish allowed a point in a non-title match.
Notre Dame moved to the brink of victory when Varnum, ranked 112th in the nation, registered a 6-3, 6-4 win at the No. 1 flight over Ashley. It was Varnum’s sixth triumph in seven career BIG EAST Championship singles matches and it snapped a personal 12-match losing streak for the Irish veteran.
The 123rd-ranked Salas capped off the semifinal triumph for Notre Dame with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 4 over BC’s Ruta Veitas. It was Salas’ 24th dual-match singles win in 26 contests this season, tying the school record held by Marisa Velasco (1996), Michelle Dasso (1998 & 2000) and Jennifer Hall (1999). In addition, Salas moved her overall record to 31-5 this year, jumping into a tie for 16th place on the Irish single-season victories list. All told, she has won 27 of her last 29 matches.
Connelly was leading Yeomans in the third set of their match when it was abandoned.
Notre Dame and Miami will be meeting in the BIG EAST championship match for the seventh consecutive season. The Irish have won four of the previous six encounters and hold a 7-2 edge in the series with the Hurricanes. The two teams already have played once this year, with Notre Dame nipping UM, 4-3, on April 7 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
“We had a tight match with Miami at home earlier this season, beating them indoors and they are a better team outdoors,” Louderback said. “We are going to have to play really well to have a chance to win.”
The winner of Sunday’s title match will receive the BIG EAST’s automatic bid into the NCAA Championships which begin May 11-12 at campus sites around the country. The finals will be held May 16-25 on the Stanford University campus in Stanford, Calif. Last season, Notre Dame advanced to the round of 16 for the second consecutive year before bowing to Florida, 4-1.
#20 Notre Dame 4, Boston College 1
No. 1: #112 Becky Varnum (ND) d. Allison Ashley, 6-3, 6-4
No. 2: Nina Vaughan (ND) vs. Nida Waseem (BC), 6-7, 2-5, abandoned
No. 3: Morgan Landes (BC) d. Lindsey Green (ND), 6-2, 6-4
No. 4: *#123 Alicia Salas (ND) d. Ruta Veitas (BC), 6-4, 6-2
No. 5: Katie Cunha (ND) d. Anisha Fernando (BC), 6-1, 6-1
No. 6: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) vs. Emily Yeomans (BC), 6-0, 5-7, 2-0, abandoned
No. 1: Cunha/Green (ND) vs. Veitas/Waseem (BC), 7-4, abandoned
No. 2: Varnum/Vaughan (ND) d. Ashley/Emily Hellberg (BC), 8-3
No. 3: *Connelly/Salas (ND) d. Fernando/Yeomans, 8-4
* indicates clinching victory
— ND —