March 28, 2003
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (10-7) begins a four-match road trip to finish the regular season by heading to Columbus, Ohio to face #35 Ohio State (9-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. (EST). The Irish, who have dropped 33 spots to 48th in the last two weeks in the national rankings despite winning six of their last eight matches, will complete a stretch of five matches in eight days, including four against Big Ten teams. Notre Dame, which is 2-4 on the road this season, has won seven in a row against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State is undefeated at home this season and has won 19 of its last 20 home matches, dating back to 2001.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: The Irish won three of four matches on their final homestand of the season to finish with an 8-3 mark in the Eck Tennis Pavilion this spring. On Friday, the Irish registered a 4-3 victory over Iowa. Notre Dame won the doubles point and three of the four singles matches decided in straight sets to take a 4-1 lead and clinch the victory before the Hawkeyes put two more points on the board, with a three-set win at No. 3 and a match-tiebreaker victory at No. 6.
On Sunday, No. 13 William & Mary rallied from a 2-0 deficit, winning a pair of three-set matches to edge Notre Dame 4-3. William & Mary’s Megan Muth overcame a 4-1 deficit, down two service breaks, in the third set to defeat Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) at No. 2 before the Tribe’s Nina Kamp came through with a three-set victory over Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) at No. 4 with the match tied 3-3.
Notre Dame rebounded on Tuesday with a 5-2 win over No. 28 Michigan. The Irish won the doubles point with a tiebreaker victory from Salas and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 2 in the last match on-court before taking four of six in singles.
Wednesday saw the Irish beat Purdue 6-1 in their last home match of the season. Notre Dame won the doubles point for the fourth match in a row, getting victories from a pair of teams that had never played with each other: Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) at No. 1 and Stastny and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 3. In singles, the Irish won five of six, including three-set wins from Stastny, Sarah Jane Connelly, and Lauren Connelly.
IRISH vs. BUCKEYES: Ohio State enters the weekend with a 9-4 (3-0 Big Ten) record and No. 35 national ranking, though the Buckeyes have lost in each of their last two matches, falling to LSU and Central Florida. Ohio State’s other losses came to Yale and Nebraska. Three of the four defeats were 4-3 decisions, with the matches against the Knights and the Bulldogs coming down to third-set tiebreakers with the match tied 3-3. The Buckeyes are atop the Big Ten standings, with a 0.5-games lead over No. 17 Illinois and No. 26 Northwestern, who are 2-0 in conference action. Ohio State was ranked 40th in the preseason and rose to a season-high 31st last week before their current losing streak.
The Buckeyes have been formidable in doubles this season, winning the initial point of the match 12 of 13 times, with LSU as the only team to win the doubles point against OSU. In singles, senior Sadhaf Pervez is 13-0 at the No. 1 position and is ranked 53rd in the nation. None of Pervez’ dual-match opponents are currently in the national rankings.
Ohio State and Notre Dame have played three common opponents, with each team gaining wins vs. Michigan, Boston College, and Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes had 4-3 wins in each match, while the Irish topped Michigan 5-2 and the two BIG EAST teams by 6-1 counts.
Ohio State has been difficult to beat at home, posting wins in all five matches in Columbus this season, as well as 19 of the last 20 at home, dating back to 2001.
The Buckeyes returned nine monogram winners from last year’s squad that was 19-7 (7-3 Big Ten) and finished 42nd. Ohio State lost in the first round of the conference tournament to Michigan, but still gained an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, falling to Alabama in the opening round.
Notre Dame and Ohio State will play for the sixth consecutive season and the 14th time overall. The Irish have won seven in a row and hold a 10-3 overall edge. Notre Dame won the initial match by a 7-2 score in 1985. The lone three Buckeye victories in the series came in a four-match span from 1987-90. The last Ohio State triumph over Notre Dame was a 7-2 decision in 1990 in Columbus. The Irish are 4-2 in six previous trips to Ohio State, though this is just the second visit to Columbus since 1993. Only one match (a 5-4 OSU win in 1987) in the series has been decided by fewer than three points. This year’s match will mark the first time ever that the Buckeyes enter the contest with a higher national ranking than the Irish.
A year ago, #20 Notre Dame defeated 38th-ranked Ohio State 5-2 on March 2 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The doubles point came down to the No. 1 match, with Meaghan Colville and Monica Rincon gaining an 8-6 upset of the nation’s No. 30 team, Becky Varnum and Lindsey Green. Notre Dame rebounded to win each of the bottom five singles matches to claim victory. Two Irish players also registered upsets of ranked players, with Nina Vaughan gaining a 6-3, 6-2 victory over #49 Erica Fisk at No. 2 and Green beating #82 Sadhaf Pervez 6-2, 6-0 at No. 3. Two matches were decided in match tiebreakers, with 85th-ranked Rincon beating #73 Varnum at No. 1 and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) prevailing at No. 4.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Despite having won six of its last eight matches (with the lone losses coming to #8 Arizona State and #9 William & Mary), Notre Dame plummetted 21 spots to 48th in this week’s Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, completing a two-week drop of 33 positions. The drop can be attributed to the fact that the last two weeks were the first sets of rankings to be determined by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s point-per-match computer formula, while each of the previous listings were based on coaches’ votes. The computer rankings do not take into account margin of victory or defeat and, thus, the three 4-3 Irish losses to top-15 teams (#7 Tennessee, #9 William & Mary, and #15 Kentucky) count the same as 7-0 defeats. In addition, six of the eight Notre Dame victories counted in the most recent set of rankings were against teams now unranked.
Notre Dame’s No. 48 ranking is the worst for the Irish since the ITA began ranking more than 25 teams in 1993. The previous low was 27th, where they appeared last week and once in 1993. Prior to last week, Notre Dame had been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last 125 sets of rankings released by the ITA, dating back to fall, 1995. Nonetheless, the Irish have been ranked continuously for all of 11 consecutive seasons, a streak dating back to the preseason listing in the fall of 1992 and spanning nearly 200 sets of rankings.
A new set of individual rankings was released this week, with junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) moving up to a career-high 33rd in singles. She is the highest-ranked Notre Dame player since Michelle Dasso finished her career fifth in the final 2001 rankings. Meanwhile, classmate Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) dropped 12 spots to 77th in singles. In doubles, senior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) dropped six positions to No. 33. The next set of individual rankings will be released April 9.
ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE: Notre Dame has had a series of near-misses in upset attempts this season. The Irish have played seven teams currently ranked in the top 26, losing each match. Three of those contests were decided by 4-3 scores, while another trio were 5-2 decisions. Tennessee, currently ranked seventh, won the doubles point in the last match on-court in beating the Irish by a point. No. 15 Kentucky got a win at No. 5 with the match tied 3-3 to beat Notre Dame, while ninth-ranked William & Mary rallied from a 2-0 deficit and got three-set wins at Nos. 2 (rallying from down two service breaks, 4-1, in the third) and 4 (with the match tied 3-3) for the victory. The Irish also dropped 5-2 matches to No. 1 Duke, No. 8 Arizona State, and No. 11 North Carolina. Notre Dame’s inability to convert on any of these upset opportunities is the main reason the Irish are ranked 48th nationally.
LETHAL LESLIE: Irish junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), who missed all of last spring with a shoulder injury after going 30-12 as a freshman, has returned to action this spring with much success, establishing herself as one of the most dangerous players in college tennis. She is 14-7, including 12-5 in dual matches, and is ranked 33rd nationally in singles, having defeated seven ranked players. Leslie returned after a 14-month layoff at the Collegiate Tennis Kickoff Classic, going 2-2 with wins over #60 Tina Hojnik of Georgia and #83 Jennifer Magley of Florida. After starting the dual-match season 1-3, she has won 11 of her last 13 matches, including straight-set wins over #15 Amanda Johnson of Duke, #26 Candice Fuchs of William & Mary, #48 Nathalie Roels of Kentucky, #98 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest, and #105 Kendra Strohm of Texas. She moved into the No. 1 singles position for the first time in her career at March 1 and is 6-2 at that spot. Five of her losses came to players currently ranked, including three in the top 15, with one decision in a match tiebreaker and another in a third set. In addition, she had to retire two points from victory vs. Michigan’s Michelle DaCosta.
COMEBACK CONNELLY: Notre Dame sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) has been hot of late, winning six in a row at No. 5 singles to improve to 19-10 this season and 11-5 in dual matches. Both win totals are tied for tops on the team. In her last eight matches, Connelly has lost the first set on five occasions, but rebounded to win each time, grabbing victories vs. Wake Forest, BYU, Arizona State, Michigan, and Purdue. In all this season, she has dropped the opening frame 16 times, but holds a 7-9 record in those matches. She is 10-2 this season in matches that extend beyond the second set (6-2 in three-setters and 4-0 in match tiebreakers).
IRISH UP 1-0: Since Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback made a minor change in his doubles lineup on Feb. 24, inserting Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), the Irish have won the doubles point in seven of nine matches, including each of the last four. Notre Dame had taken a 1-0 lead in four of the eight matches prior to that. Overall, the Irish have won the doubles point 11 times in 17 matches this season, including in nine of 11 contests in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame is 8-3 when winning the first point and 2-4 when dropping it.
DO I KNOW YOU?: Two players on Ohio State’s roster have ties to current Irish players. Buckeye sophomore Lindsey Adams and Notre Dame senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) are both natives of Mercer Island, Wash. and were teammates at Mercer Island High School, helping their team to back-to-back Washington state titles. Ohio State junior Erica Fisk and Notre Dame’s Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor School) are both natives of Indianapolis, Ind. Fisk was a classmate of current Notre Dame basketball point guard Chris Thomas at Pike High School, while Neighbours graduated from the Park Tudor School.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.email@example.com, or Chris Masters at Masters.firstname.lastname@example.org.