Oct. 8, 2003
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Notre Dame senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), ranked 63rd nationally in singles, defeated a third ranked player in as many matches to qualify for the 32-player main draw of the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate tennis grand slam. Salas topped #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary 6-4, 6-3 in Wednesday’s qualifying round and will face #27 Tammy Encina of Tennessee on Thursday in the opening round of the main draw.
“Alicia played really well today,” said Irish head coach Jay Louderback. “The match was tight throughout, but she was able to capitalize on her opportunities to win.”
The first set was on-serve with Salas leading 5-4 when the Irish senior broke Muth’s serve to take a one-set advantage. Salas followed that up with an early service break in the following set, which was all she needed.
“Alicia was very aggressive to open the second set,” said Louderback. “She just didn’t miss any of her shots, and that was the difference.”
The two players also met last spring in the Eck Tennis Pavilion in dual-match action at No. 2 singles, with the then-Tribe freshman rallying for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win to send her team to a 4-3 triumph.
Wednesday’s match marked the third for Muth against an Irish player in just five days. Last weekend in the Kentucky Fall Classic, she fell on Saturday in three sets to Notre Dame freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) before topping sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) the next day.
On Tuesday, Salas beat #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 and #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson 6-1, 6-0.
A win against Encina in the first-ever meeting between the players would pit Salas against the winner of fifth-seeded #6 Alice Barnes of Stanford and #29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona.
Salas is 5-1 on the young season, with her only loss coming in three sets to #8 Alexis Gordon of Florida in the quarterfinals of the adidas Invitational. Her three wins over ranked foes in this tournament match her total from all of last season. She has 10 career victories over ranked opponents and has defeated top-40 players on back-to-back days after never before accomplishing the feat.
The last time an Irish player defeated top-40 opponents in consecutive contests was in fall 2001, when Becky Varnum (’02) beat #12 Anne Nguyen of Georgia in three sets in the Bulldog Invitational before topping #15 Jewel Peterson at No. 1 singles in an exhibition match against USC.
Salas is the first Notre Dame player to reach the main draw of the All-American Championships since current Irish assistant coach Michelle Dasso advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament as a senior in 2000.
The main draw of the All-American Championships consists of 22 of the top 25 players in the nation. Ten of the top 11 players will be competing, with eight of them garnering seeds. The top seed is Agata Cioroch of Georgia, a semifinalist in last year’s NCAA Singles Championship. Raquel Kops-Jones of California, Christelle Grier of Northwestern, and Chloe Carlotti of Fresno State round out the top four seeds.
Salas has previously faced just two players in the draw: Grier and Gordon. The Wildcat won two of three meetings with Salas last season, while the Gator prevailed in a matchup in last month’s adidas Invitational.
Salas is one of just three players from the Midwest Region in the main draw, joining fourth-ranked Grier and #44 Jennifer McGaffigan of Illinois, who gained entry by winning the title in the ITA Summer Circuit Championships in August. Salas and #34 Megan Bradley of Miami are the lone BIG EAST competitors in the field.
Only three players in the main draw, all qualifiers, are ranked lower than Salas: #88 Daniela Alvarez of Clemson, and Vanderbilt’s Amanda Fish and Sacramento State’s Anna Eriksson, who are both unranked. Eriksson already has won six matches in the tournament, as she advanced through both prequalifying and qualifying to reach the main draw.
The Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships, the Nov. 6-9 ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and the year-end NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships are college tennis’ three national championship events. From 1986 until 2000-01 there were four national tournaments, but the ITA National Clay Court Championships is no longer played.
The main draw (Thurs.-Sun.) is preceded by two sets of qualifying tournaments. The 64-player (32 doubles) prequalifying tournament was last weekend at UCLA and eight players and four doubles teams advanced from there to the 64-player qualifying tournament at Riviera (where eight players and four doubles teams advanced to the main draw).
The premier hard court event of the fall collegiate season, the All-American Championships feature the top players in NCAA Division I tennis. The tournament dates back to 1983 when Georgia’s Lisa Spain won the inaugural title. Several past champions have gone on to professional careers. The famous Riviera Tennis Club has played host to this event since 1988 (it also hosted an intercollegiate women’s championship from 1986-88).
RadioTennis.com plans to broadcast the weekend semifinals and finals.
Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships
Singles — Qualifying Round
#63 Alicia Salas (Notre Dame) d. [9-16] #39 Megan Muth (William & Mary) 6-4, 6-3
Note: Seeding is listed in brackets followed by national ranking.