Oct. 27, 2003
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Senior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) won a pair of matches Monday to advance to the singles final of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Championships in the West Hills Athletic Club. The title match will feature the tournament’s top two seeds, with Salas taking on Northwestern’s top-seeded #4 Cristelle Grier at 9 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday.
Salas, the tournament’s second seed and ranked 63rd in the nation, beat Michigan’s Elizabeth Exon 6-1, 6-2 in a morning match prior to topping the fourth seed, #42 Jessica Rush of Northwestern, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.
“Alicia played well today and has played well throughout the tournament,” said Irish head coach Jay Louderback. “She is being aggressive and getting to the net a lot. Every part of her game is good right now. She has done a great job of finishing sets; she hasn’t lost more than three games in any set, but a number of times it has been 3-3 and she has just closed it out.”
Salas and Grier will meet for the fourth time in the last two seasons, with the Wildcat winning two of the previous meetings. Salas took the initial meeting, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in last season’s adidas Invitational. Grier then prevailed at No. 1 singles in dual-match play (6-1, 6-2) and was again victorious in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship (7-5, 6-0).
The second win of the day for Salas marked her eighth this fall against a ranked opponent after having just seven ranked victories in her first three years of collegiate play. She is 11-3 this fall, with each of her defeats coming against top-30 opponents.
In five matches in the tournament, Salas has dropped just 20 games, an average of four per contest and two per set.
Reaching the final assured both Salas and Grier automatic berths in the 32-player singles draw of the second leg of the collegiate grand slam, the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, to be played Nov. 6-9 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Salas is the first Irish player to gain entrance to the tournament since the 2000-01 season, when current Notre Dame assistant coach Michelle Dasso reached the semifinals when the event was contested in February.
Salas is the first Irish player to reach the final of the regional indoor championships since Dasso won the title in 2000.
Notre Dame freshman Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) saw her Cinderella run end in the quarterfinals against Grier in a 6-0, 6-2 decision. Thompson won six matches in the Midwest Championships, three in qualifying and another three once she reached the main draw. She is 10-3 in her first collegiate fall.
ITA Midwest Championships
Singles – Quarterfinals
 #4 Cristelle Grier (Northwestern) d. Christian Thompson (Notre Dame) 6-0, 6-2
 #63 Alicia Salas (Notre Dame) d. Elizabeth Exon (Michigan) 6-1, 6-2
Singles — Semifinals
 #63 Salas (ND) d.  #42 Jessica Rush (Northwestern) 6-3, 6-3
Note: Tournament seeding in brackets followed by national ranking.