Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Irish Again Among Nation's Finest Academically

July 21, 2003

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team was named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-Academic Team for the fourth straight year and seventh time in eight years, while also having seven players earn ITA Scholar-Athlete awards, it was announced last week. Among Division I schools, only the University of Evansville matched the seven Irish Scholar-Athlete recipients, which is the most by a Division I school in a single year in the 24-year history of the award. Notre Dame also was one of just five schools to earn the team honor and finish in the top 25 of the final ITA national rankings.

Winners of the Scholar-Athlete Award were 2003 graduate and team captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.), senior-to-be Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), and rising sophomores Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.), Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.), Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Preparatory School), Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.), and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy).

The ITA All-Academic Team award is open to any ITA program that has a cumulative team grade point average of 3.20 or above (on a 4.00 scale) for the academic year. All eligible student-athletes who compete in one or more varsity matches average into the GPA.

Notre Dame has earned mention as an All-Academic team seven times in the eight years since the ITA began the award, missing out only in 1999. Only one Division I program — Western Michigan — has a better academic mark, with the Broncos gaining the distinction every year from 1996-2003. Southern Illinois and the University of Evansville are also seven-time winners of the team honor.

In order to earn ITA Scholar-Athlete status, a player must meet the following criteria: 1) be a varsity letter winner; 2) have a grade point average of at least 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) for the current academic year; 3) have been enrolled at her present school for at least two semesters (including freshman through senior year). Prior to this year, only juniors and seniors could receive the award, but freshmen and sophomores are now also eligible.

The Irish women’s tennis team, which had a 3.444 combined GPA this year — the highest of the 26 Notre Dame varsity squads — was one of 72 Division I women’s tennis programs to be named All-Academic Teams. Of the winners, only Vanderbilt (13th) and Clemson (19th) finished with a final national ranking higher than that of the Irish (21st). Georgetown and West Virginia joined Notre Dame as the lone BIG EAST Conference schools to be so honored.

With the Irish men’s tennis team also gaining the distinction, Notre Dame was one of 16 schools to have both women’s and men’s squads be named All-Academic Teams. The Irish teams had nine student-athletes earn the Scholar-Athlete Award (seven women, two men), placing Notre Dame in a tie for fourth among Division I schools in that category. Yale had 15 recipients, while South Florida and Georgetown each had 10 and Ball State, New Mexico, and Princeton tied the Irish with nine.

Cunha, who graduated in May with a 3.422 GPA as a marketing major in the Mendoza College of Business, was named to the dean’s list on five occasions during her collegiate career, including twice last season. She also was a member of Notre Dame’s Academic Honors Program for Student-Athletes. Playing mostly No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles for Notre Dame, Cunha was ranked as high as 27th nationally, with Stastny, in doubles.

Salas, a pre-professional studies/anthropology major in the College of Arts & Letters, has a 3.587 cumulative GPA, having earned dean’s list honors five times in her three years at Notre Dame. A regular in the top two spots in the singles lineup, as well as the No. 2 doubles position, Salas led the Irish with 46 combined victories (24 singles, 22 doubles) and was ranked as high as 65th in the nation in singles.

Connelly was named to the dean’s list twice in her first collegiate year, earning a 3.800 GPA, including a 3.933 in the fall semester. Enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, she played mostly No. 6 singles and No. 2 doubles for the Irish, leading the team with 15 dual-match victories in doubles and finishing the year ranked 59th in doubles, with Salas.

Donohue, a pre-professional studies major in the College of Arts & Letters, had a 3.529 GPA in her first year, making the dean’s list in the fall semester. Donohue was 6-4 in doubles in ’02-03.

Nelson had a 3.863 GPA to make the dean’s list in her first collegiate semester and finished her initial year with a 3.559 average. A pre-professional studies major in the College of Arts & Letters, she led the Irish with 13 singles wins in fall play.

Smith, enrolled in the College of Arts & Letters, earned a 3.933 GPA her first semester to gain dean’s list mention, finishing the year with a 3.667. She played No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles for Notre Dame as a freshman.

Stastny was on the dean’s list in the spring semester, finishing her first year with a 3.600 GPA. Enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, she played mostly No. 4 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Irish a year ago.

In all, Notre Dame will return nine monogram winners, including six of their top seven players from last year’s squad that was 16-9, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and finished ranked 21st in the nation.