June 22, 2004
Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), who last month completed an outstanding four-year career on the University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team, returned to her home in Colorado yesterday after an eight-day trip to China, where she and the rest of the 2004 American Express Collegiate All-Star Tennis Team took part in a series of clinics, matches, and cultural exchanges hosted by the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA). Salas split a pair of singles matches in helping the women’s team to one win and one defeat. Salas, playing No. 4, registered a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Huan Xia, but the American Express All-Stars dropped a 4-3 decision against the Tianjin All-Stars on Wednesday, Jun 16. The former Irish standout then lost in a match tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 (11-9), against Yijing Zhao, but the Americans prevailed 5-2 against the China All-Stars on Friday, June 18. The men’s American Express All-Star team had more success, blanking both the Tianjin All-Stars (6-0) and the China All-Stars (7-0). The matches, as well as other tour activities were carried on the “Beijing TV” cable channel. Salas was one of 10 players (five women and five men) and three coaches selected by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) to represent the United States. The team made stops in Hong Kong, Tianjin and Beijing, enjoying sightseeing excursions (including The Great Wall and the Ming Tombs), and participating in several clinics for junior/high school level players and coaches. The U.S. squad competed in exhibition action against teams selected by the CTA, consisting of the best young players in China, ages 17-23. Salas, who was ranked as high as 10th earlier this season before finishing 22nd in the final ITA national singles rankings, concluded her final campaign with a 24-17 record, including 15 wins over ranked opponents, six of them vs. top-30 players. She earned her second consecutive invitation to the NCAA Singles Championship and became just the fourth Irish player ever to qualify for each leg of the collegiate grand slam in a season. She finished her career with a 95-42 singles mark, including 52-25 in dual matches. Salas was honored with the Byron V. Kanaley Award, the highest distinction bestowed upon Irish student-athletes, for being most exemplary as both a student and a leader. She also was the national winner of the Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award for displaying inspiring dedication and commitment to her team, which enhanced her team’s performance and exemplified the spirit of college tennis. Salas, who also was tabbed the ITA Midwest Region Senior Player of the Year, finished with 16 wins at No. 1 singles (in 32 matches), making her just the seventh player in Notre Dame history to register 10+ victories at the position. Salas, named to the BIG EAST’s singles all-tournament team in each of its two years of existence, also was tabbed the team’s MVP and its recipient of the Knute Rockne Student-Athlete Award as the squad’s top student. It was the second time she had been honored with both (MVP in 2001-02, Rockne in 2002-03). In doubles, she was 24-7 as a senior, finishing the year on a nine-match winning streak to end up 18-5 in dual-match action at No. 2. Salas concluded her career with an 83-38 doubles mark. Salas’ participation marked the second year in a row Notre Dame was represented in foreign trips sponsored by the ITA. Last summer an ITA All-Star Team, headed by Irish men’s tennis coach Bob Bayliss, helped Waseda University celebrate its 100th anniversary of tennis by competing in two exhibition matches in Tokyo, Japan. The U.S. squad went 2-0 on that trip, the first by an American collegiate tennis team to Asia in over 20 years. Other members of the ’04 All-Star team were (women) Zsofia Golopencza of Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.), Amanda Johnson of Duke, Jennifer Magley of Florida, Jennifer McGaffigan of Illinois, (men) Lester Cook of Texas A&M, Phillip King of Duke, Rob Steckley of Lander (S.C.), Brian Wilson of Illinois, and Jeremy Wurtzman of Ohio State. All eight of the Division I players on the team were ranked in the ITA’s top 20 in singles in 2003-04, while Steckley and Golopencza have been ranked No. 1 at the Division II level. Salas went 2-0 against her teammates this past season, beating Johnson, ranked fifth at the time, and McGaffigan, then ranked 14th, in dual-match action at No. 1. Full results of the team’s matches, as well as recaps and photos from the trip, are available at www.itatennis.com. To view China’s coverage of the week’s events, visit the Tennis Magazine – China web site at www.tennis.com.cn.