July 14, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The most decorated women’s tennis player in Notre Dame history has returned to her alma mater to become an assistant coach. Irish head coach Jay Louderback announced recently that 2001 graduate and the only four-time All-American in the program’s history, Michelle Dasso, will join his staff for the upcoming season, replacing departed assistant Liz Balanis. Dasso, who had played professionally since leaving Notre Dame, began her duties on July 1.
“We are very excited to have Michelle back at the University of Notre Dame,” said Louderback. “She had such a great career as a player, and I think we’ll have the opportunity to do just as well if not better with her as a coach. Her enthusiasm will make a huge difference in the way our team plays.”
In playing professionally for just under two years, Dasso was ranked as high as 483rd in the world in singles (March ’03) and 388th in doubles (October ’02) despite battling injuries.
Dasso, named Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Senior Player of the Year in ’01, is the Irish recordholder in nearly every statistical category, including career singles victories (140), career doubles victories (109), season singles victories (40), and combined single-season victories (74).
An All-American in singles and doubles in 1999 and 2001, Dasso was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally in singles and fifth in doubles, with ’02 graduate Becky Varnum. Both listings, as well as her ’01 year-end rankings of fifth (singles) and ninth (doubles) are tops in the program’s history. Dasso was ranked in the top 30 in the year-end rankings throughout her career, while finishing in the top 20 in doubles three times.
The native of Long Grove, Ill. and 1997 Stevenson High School graduate was the most prolific Irish player ever in collegiate grand slam events. As a senior in 2000-01, Dasso reached at least the quarterfinals of all four grand slam tournaments in singles, highlighted by a runner-up finish in the last-ever T. Rowe Price National Clay Court Championships. She ended her career by reaching the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship, becoming the first Notre Dame player to advance past the round of 16, before losing to eventual national champion Laura Granville.
Twice named the BIG EAST Conference Most Outstanding Player, Dasso helped the Irish to a 91-29 (.758) record in her four years at Notre Dame, winning a pair of conference titles and reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA team championship twice.
Playing No. 1 singles for three years after filling the No. 2 slot as a freshman, Dasso was 91-16 in singles in dual matches, never losing more than five contests in a season.
Dasso was the 2001 recipient of the Francis Patrick O’Connor Award, presented by the university to one male and one female student-athlete who best display the total embodiment of the true spirit of Notre Dame, as exemplified by their contributions and inspiration to their teams.
Former assistant Balanis resigned after six years with Notre Dame tennis in order to pursue other interests. She will remain close to the Notre Dame program while working at the South Bend Racquet Club. The teams she worked with as an assistant finished in the top 25 each season and had a combined 121-52 (.699) record.
Louderback and Dasso will helm a 2003-04 Irish squad returning six of the top seven players from last year’s team that was 16-9, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and finished ranked 21st in the nation.