Nov. 6, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team will play host to the 15th-annual Eck Classic this weekend in the Eck Tennis Pavilion in the final event on the Irish fall schedule. Indiana, Louisville, Purdue and Syracuse round out the field for the tournament, which will run Friday-Sunday, getting underway at 9:00 a.m. each day. The Eck Classic will feature two 16-player singles flights, as well as a 16-team doubles tournament.
Notre Dame, which has finished in the national top 25 in each of the last seven seasons, competed in three other tournaments this fall in preparation for the 2003 dual-match schedule, which gets underway Jan. 22 with a home match against Western Michigan.
Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo.) has had a successful fall season in both singles and doubles. In singles action, the 86th-ranked player in the nation has posted a 7-4 mark, highlighted by a pair of victories over ranked players. Salas won four matches to advance to the final of the OSU/Prince Cup before falling in a match tiebreaker to Lisa D’Amelio of Eastern Michigan. In last month’s OMNI HOTELS Midwest Championships, Salas reached the round of 16 before falling to the top seed, #23 Marine Piriou of Northwestern.
Salas paired with freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo.) in the first two events of the fall, reaching the quarterfinals in the OSU/Prince Cup before losing to eventual champions, D’Amelio and Rebecca Hawkins. The following weekend, the Irish pair won four straight matches to win the B flight doubles championship in the prestigious adidas Invitational, defeating doubles teams from Duke, Tennessee and two from Northwestern. Stastny, who reached the round of 16 with senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) in the Midwest Championships, leads the Irish with a 7-2 doubles mark this fall.
Freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) played with Salas in the Midwest Championships and the pair lost a tough 9-7 decision to the top-seeded team, 13th-ranked Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran of Indiana, which will be in action this weekend. In the Prince Cup, Connelly and junior Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind.) fell in the first round, but rebounded with three straight wins to capture the consolation title.
Connelly has had a strong first collegiate fall in singles, as well, defeating a pair of top-70 players. Connelly topped #52 Jessica Rush of Northwestern in straight sets in the opening round of the adidas Invitational and then defeated Ohio State’s Erica Fisk, ranked 69th, in the first round of the Midwest Championships.
Classmate Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla.) also has had a hot start to her collegiate career, leading the Irish this fall with eight singles victories.
Sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C.) have combined to be the only Notre Dame team to play together in each of the three fall tournaments. The pair reached the semifinals of the OSU/Prince Cup before losing to D’Amelio and Hawkins.
TOURNAMENT HISTORY AT NOTRE DAME: The 2002 Eck Classic marks the 22nd time in Notre Dame women’s tennis history that the Irish have played host to a tournament, in a number of different formats. From 1977-1980, the Irish served as co-host for the Notre Dame-St. Mary’s Invitational each fall. In the falls of 1981, ’84, and ’87, Notre Dame hosted the Irish Invitational. The Eck Doubles Classic was held in the winter from 1988-91. The Eck Classic, in its current incarnation, began in 1992 and has been held each fall since then, consisting of flights of singles and doubles action. Last year’s Eck Classic featured a different format, consisting of “hidden-dual” matches, in which teams play simulated dual matches against each other, but no team scores are reported.