May 5, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the fifth time in school history, the University of Notre Dame will send two of its women’s tennis players to the NCAA Singles Championships. Juniors Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) both have been tapped to compete in the national singles tournament, which begins May 19 in Gainesville, Fla., at the Ring Tennis Complex on the University of Florida campus. It also marks the 14th time in the last 15 years the Irish will have at least one player competing in the NCAA singles draw.
Leslie, the nation’s 39th-ranked player, earned BIG EAST All-Tournament honors after posting a 17-9 singles record that includes nine wins over ranked opponents this year. She has been a fixture at the top of the Irish singles lineup all year long, going 15-7 in dual match play and 9-4 at the No. 1 flight. Earlier this year, she was ranked as high as No. 33 in the country, the best poll position for a Notre Dame individual since Michelle Dasso was fifth in 2001. Leslie has not lost consecutive singles matches since Feb. 1 and has won 14 of her last 18 individual contests heading into the NCAA tourney.
Salas is ranked 94th in the nation and picked up conference all-tournament laurels in both singles and doubles after going 2-1 in those disciplines at the BIG EAST Championship. She is 23-14 in singles play this year, including a 12-10 mark in dual match competition. Like Leslie, Salas has been ranked throughout the spring season, topping out at No. 65 back in early March. She comes into the NCAA singles tournament on a hot streak, having won six of her last seven individual matches, including a three-set victory over No. 54 Melissa Applebaum of Miami in the BIG EAST final on April 27.
In addition to this year, the Irish also sent two players to the NCAA singles tournament in 1991, 1994, 1998 and 1999. The best NCAA finish ever by a Notre Dame individual came in 2001, when Dasso advanced to the semifinals before bowing in straight sets to eventual national champion Laura Granville of Stanford.
Prior to competing in the NCAA Singles Championships, Leslie and Salas will join their Irish teammates in facing No. 38 Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Championships Friday at 10 a.m. (CDT) in Nashville, Tenn., at the Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University. With a win, Notre Dame would face either No. 15 Vanderbilt (the tournament’s 10th seed) or Boston University in second-round action Saturday at 3 p.m. (CDT) in Nashville.
— ND —