Jan. 10, 2000
* Notre Dame ranked 18th to begin 2000 dual-match season
* Dasso, Varnum ranked in singles and doubles, Cunha and Guy in doubles
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ? The 18th-ranked Notre Dame women?s tennis team opens its 2000 dual-match season in Hawaii this week with matches against Hawaii, fourth-ranked Duke, 14th-ranked Tennessee and 23rd-ranked Washington.
THIS WEEK FOR THE IRISH: Notre Dame plays four matches in its season-opening week in Hawaii against Hawaii, Duke, Tennessee and Washington. The Irish and Rainbows will square off on Tues., Jan. 11, in Honolulu. Notre Dame has won both previous meetings with Hawaii, most recently a 9-0 win in 1997. The Irish begin a three-day stretch on Thurs., Jan. 13, at the Hilton Turtle Bay Golf and Tennis Resort in Kahuku, Hawaii, against fourth-ranked Duke, which has won all six meetings against Notre Dame, including a 6-3 win in 1999. The Blue Devils are led by 17th-ranked Megan Miller, 31st-ranked Kathy Sell and 97th-ranked Brooke Siebel. Siebel and Erica Biro are ranked 25th in doubles.
Notre Dame will face 23rd-ranked Washington on Friday for just the second time and the first since a 9-0 Irish win in 1990. The Huskies are led by Kristina Kraszewski — tied with Michelle Dasso (Long Grove, Ill.) at No. 42 in the country — and 98th-ranked Ilona Kordonskaya. The Irish wrap up their Hawaii trip against 14th-ranked Tennessee on Saturday. The Lady Vols won a 6-3 match over the Irish in 1999 and own a 7-4 edge in the series. Vilmarie Castellvi is ranked 50th in singles, while Alison Ojeda is 55th.
ITA RANKINGS: The Irish enter the 2000 dual-match season ranked 18th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after finishing 1999 ranked 15th. Junior Michelle Dasso and sophomore Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) enter the season ranked 42nd and 101st in singles and are 10th in doubles. Freshman Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) and junior Kimberly Guy (Portola Valley, Calif.) are not far behind at 15th in the country in doubles.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: In addition to opening the season with three matches against top 25 teams, the Irish are scheduled to meet at least 20 ranked teams, including matches at eighth-ranked Pepperdine, 11th-ranked Wake Forest and 15th-ranked William & Mary. Notre Dame?s 10-match home schedule features five matches against Midwest region teams, BIG EAST rival Miami (Fla.) and 21st-ranked Kentucky. The Irish will make their seventh consecutive appearance at the USTA/ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championships at Wisconsin in February. Notre Dame will defend its 1999 BIG EAST championship April 20-23, at Miami.
HEAD COACH JAY LOUDERBACK: Jay Louderback is in his 11th year as head coach of the Irish, compiling a 177-89 (.665) record at Notre Dame and a career mark of 381-267 (.588) in 19 seasons of coaching. His 1999 team won 23 dual matches, matching his ?95 Irish for Notre Dame?s most wins at the NCAA Division I level. He has guided the Irish to NCAA championship appearances in six of the last seven years, including a national quarterfinal appearance in 1996. His teams have finished among the top 20 teams in the country in five of the last seven years and in the top 30 in all but two of his years at Notre Dame. The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State has been named the ITA regional coach of the year twice in 1995 and 1998 and was named BIG EAST coach of the year after leading the Irish to BIG EAST championship titles in 1996, 1997 and 1999. His Notre Dame players have won 10 All-America honors in his 10 years.
VARNUM WINS COTTON BOWL: Sophomore Becky Varnum spent part of her mid-semester break preparing for the dual-match season as the fifth seed of the 1999 Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas. Varnum dropped just 13 games in five matches on her way to winning the title. After a pair of 6-1, 6-1 wins, Varnum beat Tennessee?s top-seeded Alison Ojeda 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Her toughest match was a 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 win over ninth-seeded Saber Pierce in the semifinals. Varnum claimed the title with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Northwestern?s sixth-seeded Shannon Duffy in the final.
2000 PREVIEW: Coming off its third 20-win season, third BIG EAST Conference title in the last four years and its sixth NCAA championship appearance since 1993, the Notre Dame women?s tennis team has established itself as a perennial top-20 program and the team to beat in the Midwest. With four starters returning, and a number of talented and eager players waiting to fill the gaps, the Irish should once again be among the top teams in the country.
Gone from the 1999 squad are four-year starters Jennifer Hall and Marisa Velasco, but the Irish welcome freshman Katie Cunha. Two-time All-American Michelle Dasso headlines a trio of returning players that also includes senior Kelly Zalinski (Greer, S.C.) and sophomore Becky Varnum. The three combined to win 102 singles matches and 76 doubles matches last year.
Dasso followed up a freshman season in ?98 — when she won a school-record 40 singles matches — by earning both singles and doubles All-America honors as a sophomore in ?99. She quickly dispelled any notion of a sophomore jinx by spending much of last season ranked in the top 10 in both singles and doubles with a 23-4 record at No. 1 singles and 21-7 mark at No. 1 doubles.
With Dasso set to anchor the Irish from the top spot, Varnum and Zalinski look to continue their success at higher spots in the lineup. Varnum played a large role in Notre Dame?s success last year, leading the team in wins with 36 and winning 23 dual singles matches at No. 4 singles. She finished her first season without losing a set in her final 11 matches and had a 4-2 record against ranked opponents. Varnum was ranked as high as 40th in the country before a final ranking of 75.
Zalinski has been one of the steadiest players in Irish history as the only player to win at least 30 singles matches in each of her first three seasons at Notre Dame. She enters her final season at Notre Dame with 98 career singles wins, just 20 short of the record of 118 set in ?99 by Hall. Zalinski?s all-court game has helped develop her into one of the team?s top doubles players.
After Dasso, Varnum and Zalinski, Louderback has the luxury of choosing from a number of talented players to round out the lineup. Senior Sarah Scaringe (Marietta, Ga.), junior Kimberly Guy (Portola Valley, Calif.), sophomores Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) and Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) and Cunha all should battle for the remaining spots. Guy (5-5) and Green (11-7) split time at No. 6 singles last season. Sophomore Berica Day (San Antonio, Texas) and freshman Michelle Hamilton (Diamond Bar, Calif.) also could contribute.
IRISH SWEEP ITA MIDWEST DOUBLES: Michelle Dasso and Becky Varnum played doubles together for the first time at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Region doubles championships and went 5-0 to win the regional doubles title, the first for a Notre Dame team since 1994. Dasso and Varnum beat Ohio State?s seventh-ranked and second-seeded Kristy Dascoli and Briana Harris 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals and then won the 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 over Purdue?s Jennifer Embry and Shannon Taheny to win the championship. The main draw doubles win came on the final day of the championship to complete a sweep of the doubles titles after Katie Cunha and Kimberly Guy won the consolation doubles title. Cunha and Guy, who posted a win over Iowa?s sixth-ranked Toni Neykova and Shera Wiegler earlier in the fall, lost in the first round of the main draw before advancing through six rounds of the consolation draw to win. They beat Cincinnati?s Kara Molony and Lisa Pruett 8-5 in the consolation final.
1999 FALL REVIEW: As the top combined women?s and men?s tennis programs in the Midwest, Notre Dame was selected to play in the inaugural WingspanBank.com/WORLD TEAM TENNIS National Collegiate Championships held Oct. 1-3, at Stanford. The event, sponsored by Billie Jean King?s WORLD TEAM TENNIS organization, featured sets of men?s and women?s singles and doubles and mixed doubles. The Irish team of Michelle Dasso, Kelly Zalinski, Ryan Sachire and Trent Miller finished sixth out of the 16 invited teams. Notre Dame opened with a 30-12 win over Illinois before falling 26-24 to South Carolina. The Irish beat Tennessee 29-19 in the consolation round before losing 28-20 to third-seeded Mississippi.
In other fall results Dasso reached the quarterfinals of the T. Rowe Price National Clay Court Championships for the second consecutive year but was forced to pull out of the ITA All-American Championships due to injury. Lindsey Green and Katie Cunha won their singles flights at the Indiana Invitational, while Green and Zalinski won the top doubles flight. Nina Vaughan beat Iowa?s Shera Wiegler in the first round of the Illinois Invitational, while the Irish dropped a 5-4 exhibition dual match to USC without Dasso in the lineup.
IRISH INK TWO: Caylan Leslie and Alicia Salas, two nationally ranked junior players, signed national letters of intent in November to attend Notre Dame next year. Leslie, a native of Newport Beach, Calif., will bring much experience to Notre Dame with a United States Tennis Association national girls’ 18s ranking of 19. The lefthander currently is a senior at Corona del Mar High School, the same high school as Irish sophomore Nina Vaughan. Salas, a native of Engelwood, Colo., hails from Cherry Creek High School, a perennial tennis power in Colorado, and is ranked 76th in USTA national rankings. She enters her senior year having won three state singles titles and will be looking for her fourth in the spring. Only current Irish sophomore Becky Varnum, from Colorado Springs, Colo., won four Colorado High School singles titles.