Oct. 7, 2003
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Notre Dame senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), ranked 63rd nationally in singles, knocked off a pair of ranked players Tuesday to advance to the qualifying round in the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate tennis grand slam. Salas beat players ranked 85th and 33rd in the nation in singles and will take on the 39th-ranked player on Wednesday in an attempt to reach the 64-player main draw.
In her opening match, Salas battled #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt, eventually prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
“Alicia played the big points really well,” said Irish head coach Jay Louderback. “Every game of the match was really long. Even in the last set, only one game wasn’t really close. Alicia just won them all.”
Salas dropped just a single game in her second match of the day, knocking off the No. 5 seed in the qualifying draw, #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson, 6-1, 6-0.
“Alicia played really aggressive tennis,” said Louderback. “She came to the net a lot and hit a lot of overheads. She volleyed really well, and she just didn’t miss any of her shots.”
Salas will enter Wednesday on a dominating streak, having won 18 of her last 19 games on the opening day of qualifying. William & Mary’s Megan Muth, ranked 39th in college tennis, awaits the Irish senior in a 10:30 a.m. (PDT) tussle that will send the winner on to the main draw of the All-American Championships. The two players 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.
The match will mark 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.
Salas is 4-1 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. Lacelarie is the highest-ranked opponent ever to fall victim to Salas, who now has nine career victories against ranked foes.
Tuesday was the first time since May 23, 2001 that a Notre Dame player defeated two ranked opponents in singles on the same day. On that occasion, current assistant coach Michelle Dasso topped #47 Lenka Zacharova of Weber State 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and #11 Kristina Kraszewski of Washington 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Singles Championship.
The win over Lacelarie marked the most lopsided Irish singles victory against a ranked opponent since Becky Varnum (’02) beat #56 Alena Jecminkova of Kansas State 6-1, 6-0 in the Bulldog Invitational on September 29, 2001. It was the most lopsided Notre Dame win over a foe ranked among the top 35 since Dasso beat #11 Marlene Mejia of North Carolina 6-0, 6-1 on February 11, 2001 at No. 1 singles in a 6-1 Irish triumph.
Salas is bidding to become the first Notre Dame player to reach the main draw of the All-American Championships since Dasso advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament as a senior in 2000.
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 will advance 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
#63 Alicia Salas (Notre Dame) d. #85 Ashley Schellhas (Vanderbilt) 6-4, 3-6, 6-0
#63 Salas (ND) d.  #33 Alix Lacelarie (Clemson) 6-1, 6-0