March 28, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 23rd-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team will face its toughest stretch of the spring season to date when it heads to the state of North Carolina for a three-match road trip that opens Saturday at 11 a.m. (EST) against #3 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Following their match with the Demon Deacons, the Irish will take on fourth-ranked Duke Monday at 4 p.m. (EDT) in Durham, before rounding out the trip against #7 North Carolina Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) in Chapel Hill. It’s the third time in school history (and second in four years) Notre Dame will face three straight top-10 foes.
LAST TIME OUT FOR THE IRISH: Senior Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) and sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) were double winners as No. 23 Notre Dame outlasted a stubborn Illinois squad, 4-3, on Wednesday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Green opened her day by teaming with senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) to clinch the doubles point with an 8-3 win at the No. 1 flight, registering the ninth victory of the season for the nation’s 30th-ranked doubles unit. Varnum also logged her 100th career doubles triumph, becoming just the third Irish player ever to reach the milestone. Green then added a 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles, chalking up her sixth win in the last seven matches.
Meanwhile, Salas paired with freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) to record an 8-3 victory at No. 3 doubles, moving the Irish tandem to 10-1 on the season. Salas then broke a 2-2 match tie with a tight 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win at No. 4 singles, lifting her dual match record to an impressive 16-2 on the season. Salas is 23-5 overall in singles competition this year (14-1 at home) and has won 19 of her last 21 matches. Junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) iced the match victory for Notre Dame with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph at No. 5 singles, rallying from 2-4 down in the second set to card her fourth match-clinching win of the season.
IRISH vs. DEMON DEACONS: Wake Forest is 15-2 this season (3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) and is ranked third in the nation. The Demon Deacons have been ranked all season long, topping out at No. 2 in the March 20 rankings before slipping a spot this week. WFU has won 11 of its last 12 matches, including a 6-1 win over No. 48 Florida State in their most recent outing on March 24.
Notre Dame and Wake Forest have played three common opponents so far this season — Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The Irish are 2-1 against this trio, defeating UI and VT, while Wake Forest is 4-0, downing Tennessee twice along the way.
Notre Dame and Wake Forest are meeting for the 13th time, with the Demon Deacons holding a slim 7-5 edge in the series (4-2 in Winston-Salem). The rivalry has been even tighter in the Jay Louderback era, with the two sides splitting 10 matches since the Irish head coach came on the scene prior to the 1989-90 season. Notre Dame has won three of its last four matches with Wake Forest, including a 5-0 victory over the eighth-ranked Demon Deacons in their last encounter on Feb. 10, 2001 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
IRISH vs. BLUE DEVILS: Duke is 13-3 this season (3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) and is ranked fourth in the nation. The Blue Devils have been a mainstay in the rankings this season, peaking at No. 2 on Jan. 30 and remaining in the top five all season long, with only a brief drop to seventh on March 20. Duke has won four of its last five matches, including a 7-0 win over No. 41 Indiana in their last match on March 24.
Notre Dame and Duke have played four common opponents this year –Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Irish are 1-3 against this group, winning only against Illinois. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils are 3-1 against this quartet, winning against everyone but Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame and Duke are meeting for the ninth time, with the Blue Devils holding an 8-0 edge in the series (2-0 in Durham with one match suspended as a 3-3 tie). The Irish nearly earned their first win over Duke last season, falling 4-3 in their spring opener on Jan. 21, 2001 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
IRISH vs. TARHEELS: North Carolina is 13-3 this season (2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) and is ranked seventh in the country. The Tarheels attained their highest poll position of the season on Wednesday, rising from their preseason placing of 17th. UNC has won six consecutive matches heading into its contest at #50 Florida State on Saturday.
Notre Dame and North Carolina have played four common opponents this spring –Illinois, Kentucky, Purdue and Tennessee. The Irish are 1-3 against this foursome, defeating Illinois, while the Tarheels are 2-2 against this group, picking off UI and Purdue.
Notre Dame and North Carolina will be playing one another for the second time this season, and the seventh time in series history. The 16th-ranked Tarheels won the first meeting with the 13th-ranked Irish, 6-1, back on Feb. 9 at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Team Championships in Madison, Wis. Nevertheless, Notre Dame still owns a 4-2 lead over UNC in the series, including a 3-0 record in Chapel Hill.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame has appeared in the Top 25 of the Omni Hotel Collegiate Tennis Rankings throughout the 2002 spring season, topping out at No. 13 on Jan. 30. The Irish held that spot for two weeks before losses to No. 4 Vanderbilt and No. 16 North Carolina at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships halted their rise. The first eight polls of the year were conducted via balloting from the ITA National Ranking Committee. Beginning March 20 and for the remainder of the season, the rankings are based on the ITA’s point-per-match computer formula, in which teams are awarded points for victories based upon their opponent’s ranking.
Notre Dame has now been ranked in the national top 25 in 74 consecutive sets of rankings released by the ITA. After finishing the previous season 21st, the Irish earned a preseason ranking of 16th in the fall of 1997 and have been in the top 25 since then, peaking at a school-record No. 5 midway through last season. The current No. 23 placing represents just the fourth time Notre Dame has not been ranked in the top 20 in the last 143 polls, dating back to fall 1995.
In addition to its team placing, Notre Dame has three players showing up in the latest ITA individual rankings. In singles play, senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is slotted at No. 75, while senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) is ranked 118th. Varnum has been ranked throughout the year, topping out at No. 48 last fall. Meanwhile, Vaughan was ranked 61st during the fall before slipping out of the polls earlier in the spring. She reappeared in the rankings at No. 110 before assuming her current poll position on March 20.
In doubles competition, Varnum and senior Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) remain firmly entrenched in the rankings, checking in at No. 30 in the latest survey. The Irish tandem is 17-13 this year and has been a fixture on the national scene, rising up to No. 23 in the fall and remaining in the top 30 since then. In fact, Varnum has been ranked in the national top 35 in doubles in each of the past 24 sets of rankings, dating back to the fall 1999 surveys.
CENTURY CITY: Senior Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) reached a career milestone on Wednesday against Illinois, picking up her 100th career doubles victory when she teamed with senior Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) for an 8-3 win at the No. 1 flight. With a career doubles record of 100-47, Varnum is just the third player in school history to crack the century mark in career doubles wins ? Michelle Dasso logged a school-record 109 doubles triumphs from 1997-2001, while Susie Panther charted 101 doubles victories from 1982-86.
In addition, with her triumph against Illinois, Green is just one victory away from becoming the fourth member of the Irish 100-Win Club in doubles. She has compiled a 99-37 record in partnered play, including a 18-13 mark during the 2001-02 season (17-13 with Varnum).
A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME: The doubles point has been a good indicator of Irish success recently. This season, Notre Dame is 9-1 when winning the doubles point and 2-6 when losing it. Dating back to last season, Notre Dame has gone on to win the match 21 of the last 22 times the Irish have captured the doubles point. The last time Notre Dame won the doubles point, but lost the match was March 15, when the Irish dropped each of the top five singles matches to lose a 5-2 road decision at No. 53 San Diego State.
SUPER SALAS: After not being a regular part of the Irish lineup a season ago, sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) has been a key to Irish success in 2002. She leads the team in both singles and doubles victories and has posted a 16-2 mark in dual singles matches, as well as a 14-4 dual doubles record. In fact, Salas is a stunning 39-9 in her career in singles matches. This season, she is 23-5 in singles and has won 19 of her last 21 matches. Earlier this year, Salas defeated 77th-ranked Agnes Wiski of Tennessee, marking the highest-ranked opponent she has beaten in her career. In doubles, she and senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) notched an upset victory over Kentucky’s 27th-ranked team of Jill Buckley and Amy Trefethen 8-4 earlier this year. Salas has been particularly dominant at home this season. She is 14-1 in singles and 12-2 in doubles in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.
FABULOUS FROSH: Freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) has hit the college tennis scene with a splash. She led the Irish in singles victories in the fall and is currently second on the squad with 19 wins this year. She also advanced through qualifying at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships and has won seven of her last eight matches, with all but one victory coming in straight sets. In addition, Connelly is 18-14 in doubles play, including a solid 10-1 record with her current partner at the No. 3 flight, sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.).
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports information hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose option No. 8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the match recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.email@example.com, or Chris Masters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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