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Cunha, Connelly Advance In Singles Qualifying At Omni Hotels Region IV Championships

Oct. 25, 2001

MADISON, Wisc. – Junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) and freshman Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) each won two matches Thursday in the opening day of singles qualifying at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships. Both will play Friday at 9:00 a.m. with a berth in the main draw on the line.

Cunha, seeded fourth in the qualifying draw, began the day by recording her first victory of the season — a 7-5, 7-5 triumph over Kim Plaushines of Michigan. She then defeated Ohio State’s Lindsay Adams 6-0, 6-3 to advance to the third and final round of qualifying, where she will take on Shawna Zuccarini of Purdue.

Connelly continued an impressive start to her collegiate career by defeating Michigan State’s Mandy Caldemeyer 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of qualifying. She then beat Purdue’s Missy Wright 6-2, 6-0. Connelly will face Brandi Watts of Minnesota with a chance to advance to the main draw. The Irish freshman now boasts a 5-1 record in collegiate singles matches.

Cunha and Connelly are trying to join five other Irish players in the main draw of singles at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships. Four Notre Dame teams will compete in the main draw of doubles after earning automatic berths. There will be one more round of qualifying on Friday, as well as the first round of the doubles main draw. The singles main draw gets underway with two rounds on Saturday.

The Omni Hotels Region IV Championships consist of a 64-player singles draw and a 64-team doubles draw. A 64-player qualifying tournament in singles is also held with eight advancing to the main draw to join the 56 players receiving automatic berths. Three victories are needed to move through qualifying. The singles finalists and the doubles champion of the main draw of each regional championship advance to the Nov. 8-11 Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Dallas, Texas, the premiere indoor collegiate tennis event of the season.

In doubles action on Friday, seniors Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.), the top-seeded pair in the tournament, will take on Deni Alexandrova and Steffi Hoch of Iowa at 4:00 p.m. At the same time, sophomores Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) will face Katie Dougherty and Lindsay Martin of Wisconsin. At 5:15 p.m., senior Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) and sophomore Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif.) are scheduled to play Erika Heshelman and Branka Savic of Northern Illinois. Connelly and Cunha will team to face Toledo’s Natyshak and Wasielewski at 6:30 p.m.

The Irish will try to continue their track record of success at the Region IV Championships. A season ago, Notre Dame captured both the singles (Michelle Dasso) and doubles (Dasso and Varnum) titles and advanced four players to the quarterfinals in the main draw of singles. Dasso and Varnum also captured the doubles title in 1999, while Dasso won in singles in 1997, as well.

Varnum has a particularly exceptional track record at the Region IV Championships. She has reached the semifinals, the round of 16 and the quarterfinals, respectively, in her three previous singles appearances, accruing a 9-3 record. She has had even more success in doubles, registering a 14-1 mark after winning the past two titles and reaching the semifinals in 1998.

All-American Varnum is the top seed in singles in 2001, while she and Green are the top-seeded doubles team. This marks the third straight year Varnum has earned a seed in both singles and doubles and the second consecutive year she has shared the top seed in doubles. Notre Dame has had the top seed in singles in each of the last four Region IV Championships as Dasso earned the No. 1 seed in each of the last three events. The Irish have also held the top doubles seed in the past two years. Two other Irish players are seeded in the singles draw: Vaughan (6th) and Leslie (7th).

The Omni Hotels Region IV Championships will go through Tuesday with the first two rounds of singles and the second and third rounds of doubles to be played on Saturday. Sunday will feature the singles round of 16 and the quarterfinals and semifinals in doubles. The quarterfinals and semifinals of singles and the doubles final will be played Monday, while the singles final is scheduled for Tuesday.

Omni Hotels Region IV Championships

Singles Qualifying

First Round

(4) Katie Cunha (ND) d. Kim Plaushines (Michigan) 7-5, 7-5

Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Mandy Caldemeyer (Michigan State) 2-6, 6-2, 6-1

Second Round

(4) Cunha (ND) d. Lindsay Adams (Ohio State) 6-0, 6-3

Connelly (ND) d. Missy Wright (Purdue) 6-2, 6-0