April 2, 2004
The 27th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (8-6, 2-0 BIG EAST) returns home this weekend for a pair of home matches. On Saturday at Noon (EST), the Irish will play Marquette (3-13) for the first time since 1991. A day later, #18 Miami (13-2, 2-0 BIG EAST) will come to town for a rematch of the title match in each of the last eight BIG EAST Championships.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: The Irish dropped a pair of matches on a trip to the state of North Carolina last weekend, falling to #33 Wake Forest 7-0 on Saturday and to #9 North Carolina 5-0 a day later. Notre Dame won six sets and lost a number of other close two-setters but only claimed one match victory.
Against the Demon Deacons, the Irish got their lone victory of the weekend, as Alicia Salas and Lauren Connelly won 8-2 at No. 2 doubles. The initial point of the match came down to the No. 1 contest, where Wake Forest prevailed 8-6. Notre Dame won a pair of first sets in singles and lost two more by just one break (7-5 and 6-4). The Deacons ended up rallying for a three-set win at No. 5 and a match-tiebreaker triumph at No. 3.
On Sunday, the Irish were ahead in the Nos. 2 and 3 singles matches but they were abandoned due to a UNC men’s match scheduled immediately afterwards. Notre Dame also lost a three-set decision at No. 6.
IRISH vs. GOLDEN EAGLES: Marquette comes to Notre Dame on an 11-match losing streak and with a 3-13 (1-1 C-USA) record overall. The Golden Eagles beat Northern Illinois (4-3) and Illinois-Chicago (6-1) to open the season 2-0 and then topped Charlotte (6-1) on Feb. 1 in their fifth match of the spring before the current skid. Ten of Marquette’s 13 defeats this season have come against teams currently listed in the national rankings (five in top 25). The Golden Eagles nearly snapped their losing streak on Thursday at home against DePaul. Marquette won the doubles point and then led 3-2 with three-setters at Nos. 4 and 6 left on the court. Blue Demon Brenda Leung of Ontario beat Spaniard Eva Trujillo-Herrera at No. 4 to tie the score 3-3, and DePaul’s Petra Rehusova of Slovakia finally ended the match, which lasted nearly five hours, saving four match points before winning 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 against Puerto Rican Francina Bonnelly at No. 6. The Golden Eagles have been shut out seven times this season, including in four straight contests prior to playing DePaul. Marquette and Notre Dame have played six common opponents — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — with the Golden Eagles losing to all of them and the Irish going 3-3 (wins against the Hoosiers, Hawkeyes, and Badgers).
The Golden Eagles returned six letterwinners from last year’s team that was 5-17 and finished sixth in Conference USA (tournament quarterfinals). Jody Bronson is in her 20th year leading the Marquette program, having compiled a 238-191 (.555) record.
Notre Dame and Marquette will meet for the first time since 1991 and eighth time overall. The Irish lead the series 6-1 and are 5-0 at home against the Golden Eagles. The schools first played in 1985, with Notre Dame winning a pair of home meetings that season, both by 9-0 scores. The lone Marquette victory was 5-4 decision in Milwaukee in 1989. The Irish won each of the last two contests (1990 and ’91) by 8-1 scores.
The last meeting between the schools came on Feb. 3, 1991 in Milwaukee. The Irish were victorious 8-1, winning every contest but No. 1 doubles, where Chris Limpert and Beth Mulcahy beat Ann Bradshaw and Lisa Tholen 6-4, 6-5. Notre Dame won the other eight contests in straight sets.
IRISH vs. HURRICANES: After being 22nd in the preseason, Miami comes into the weekend ranked 18th with a 13-2 (2-0 BIG EAST) record and four-match winning streak. The Hurricanes peaked at 15th last week, but fell thre spots despite winning three home matches. Miami’s lone losses were 4-3 decisions on the road, against #15 Harvard and #12 UCLA. The Hurricanes have six wins over teams that were ranked in the top 40 at the time of the match: vs. #30 Alabama, #30 William & Mary, #31 Pepperdine, #34 Wake Forest, #35 Baylor, and #37 South Alabama. This will be just Miami’s fifth road match of the season, as opposed to 11 home contests. Following Sunday, the ‘Canes will not leave their home city, playing a pair of home matches before traveling across town to Florida International. Miami and Notre Dame have played three common opponents: Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Marquette. The Hurricanes beat all three, while the Irish topped the Hokies, lost to the Demon Deacons, and took on the Golden Eagles on Saturday.
Junior Megan Bradley, last year’s BIG EAST Most Outstanding Tournament Player, has climbed to fourth in the ITA national singles rankings on the strength of a 24-3 record, including 14-1 in dual matches at No. 1, losing only to Courtney Bergman of Harvard in three sets. She and sophomore Melissa Applebaum are 22nd in doubles with a 12-4 record, including 11-3 in dual matches at No. 1. Among the other top performers for the Hurricanes are junior Staci Stevens, who is 12-3 in dual matches, mostly at No. 4, and freshman Audrey Banada, who is 23-1 overall and 14-0 in dual contests, mostly at No. 5. Banada and senior Mari Toro, the 2002 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Performer, are 19-4 this season, including 13-2 in dual-match doubles action, mostly at No. 3.
Notre Dame and Miami met last fall in a hidden dual match in the Midwest Blast Nov. 7-8. Both teams were without their top players, as Bradley and Irish senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) were participating in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. Notre Dame also was without sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.), who has played No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles this spring but missed the Midwest Blast due to illness. The Hurricanes won two of three in doubles, while the Irish took four of six in singles. In partnered play, Notre Dame freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) beat Stevens and senior Sara Robbins 8-1, while Applebaum and senior Sihem Bennacer topped Irish junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) 8-6. Toro and Banada beat sophomores Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.) and Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Gulliver Preparatory School) 8-5. In singles, Christian Thompson beat Stevens 7-5, 6-2, while Applebaum downed Stastny 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 and Catrina Thompson topped Toro 7-6, 6-3. Sarah Jane Connelly was victorious 6-1, 7-5 against Robbins, while Notre Dame senior Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor School) downed sophomore Natalie Mikolich 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 and Bennacer beat Donohue 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.
The Hurricanes returned six of seven starters from last year’s team that was 17-7 finished 23rd in the national rankings. Miami lost 4-3 to Notre Dame in the final of the BIG EAST Championship, but gained an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, defeating Purdue 4-1 in the first round before falling 4-3 to Kentucky in Lexington. Bradley and Applebaum both finished with national rankings in singles and doubles and earned invitations to the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. Bradley beat Missouri’s Urska Juric in the first round of the singles tournament before losing in a third-set tiebreaker to Duke’s Amanda Johnson. Applebaum lost to Tulane’s Julue Smekodub in three sets. The pair beat Johnson and Julie DeRoo in the first round of the NCAA doubles and lost to Lauren Barnikow and Erin Burdette of Stanford, the current national No. 1 team, in the round of 16.
Paige Yaroshuk-Tews is in her third season leading the Miami program, having compiled a 43-16 (.729) record. She was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year in her first season, 2002, for helping the ‘Canes to the conference title.
Notre Dame and Miami will meet for the 14th time, including 13 matches since the Irish joined the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. This will be the fifth straight year the squads have played during the regular season. The Irish hold a 9-4 overall advantage, including 4-1 in the regular season, but the ‘Canes have won two of the last three. The teams have matched up in the title match of the BIG EAST Championship every year since Notre Dame became a league member, with the Irish winning five of those eight meetings (1996, ’97, ’99, 2001, ’03). The Irish have won all three previous contests at Notre Dame, including a 4-3 affair in the most recent, in 2002. The lone non-BIG EAST match between the teams came in 1994, a 5-2 Irish home win. This will be the 12th consecutive time that both teams carry national rankings at the time of the match and second straight meeting in which Miami is the higher-ranked team after that had not previously occurred other than in the ’94 match. This year’s group is the highest-ranked Hurricanes team to play Notre Dame since that ’94 team, which was 16th. In 2003, Miami became the first league team to beat the Irish in regular-season action since joining the BIG EAST with a 6-1 victory in the regular-season finale in Coral Gables. Notre Dame recovered for a 4-3 win in the final of the conference tournament.
Miami won the regular-season contest a year ago 6-1 on April 12, 2003. The 25th-ranked Hurricanes swept the doubles and won each of the bottom five in singles (three sets at No. 5 and match tiebreaker at No. 6) to claim victory over #24 Notre Dame. Fifteen days later, the teams split the singles matches, which were played first, and the conference title came down to the No. 2 doubles match, in which Sarah Jane Connelly and Stastny beat Igna deVilliers and Abby Smith 8-6 to hand the 24th-ranked Irish a win over #20 Miami. In singles, Notre Dame won three-setters at Nos. 2 and 4 and in straight sets at No. 5, while the Hurricanes were victorious in three at Nos. 1 and 6 and in two sets at No. 3.
ITA RANKINGS: After dropping a pair of matches last weekend on a road trip through the state of North Carolina, Notre Dame dropped four spots to a season-low 27th in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings, the second determined by the point-per-match computer formula. It is the lowest ranking for the Irish since they occupied the same spot in the April 16 listing last year.
The Irish have two singles players in the most recent set of individual national rankings, the third of the season based on the ITA’s computer point-per-match formula, released March 23. On the strength of a six-match winning streak (including five wins over top-45 players), senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) rose three spots to a career-high 10th. She stands 22-10 on the season, including 10-4 in dual matches at No. 1 and a 14-6 record against ranked opponents (6-1 this spring). The ranking is the highest for an Irish player in singles since current assistant coach Michelle Dasso finished her career in 2001 at fifth. Other than Salas and Dasso, only three other Irish players have been ranked among the top 13 in the nation since the program moved to Division I in 1985-86 — Melissa Harris (’92), Wendy Crabtree (’95), and Jennifer Hall (’99). Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) fell eight spots to 92nd after losing two of three matches following her debut in the singles rankings. She and her twin sisters Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), who have lost four straight, fell out of the doubles rankings after being 37th. The next individual rankings will be released on Tuesday, April 6.
Only three seniors — California’s Raquel Kops-Jones (#1), Georgia’s Agata Cioroch (#5), and Duke’s Amanda Johnson (#7) — are higher-ranked than Salas, who is the fourth-highest-ranked American player, behind Kops-Jones (Fresno, Calif.), #2 Alexis Gordon of Florida (Windsor, Conn.), #4 Megan Bradley (Columbia, Mo.), and Johnson (Bettendorf, Iowa).
TOUGH STRETCH: The Irish just completed a stretch of eight consecutive matches against teams ranked in the top 50 of the ITA national rankings. Notre Dame posted victories over #20 BYU (6-1, Feb. 20) and #26 Indiana (5-2, Feb. 29) before losing to #17 Illinois (5-2, March 4), #6 Duke (6-1, March 10 in Wikaloa, Hawaii), and #36 Tennessee (6-1, March 13 in Wikaloa, Hawaii), rebounding to beat #47 Iowa (6-1, March 18) only to drop decisions to #33 Wake Forest (7-0, March 27) and #9 North Carolina (5-0, March 28).
MENACING MARCH AFTER FABULOUS FEBRUARY: Notre Dame finished March with a 1-5 mark after completing the month of February with a perfect 6-0 record. The lone Irish victory in March was a 6-1 home decision against #47 Iowa on the 18th. In February, Notre Dame defeated #64 Wisconsin (7-0, Feb. 1), #14 VCU (4-3, Feb. 13), Boston College (6-1, Feb. 14), #69 Virginia Tech (5-2, Feb. 15), #20 BYU (6-1, Feb. 20), and #26 Indiana (5-2, Feb. 29). It marked the first undefeated February since Notre Dame began playing a full schedule of action in the month. The Irish did not play a match in February in the first nine years of varsity women’s tennis. Notre Dame then went 3-0 in February of 1986 and hasn’t duplicated the feat since then.
SALAS ESTABLISHING HERSELF AS ONE OF NATION’S TOP PLAYERS: Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), currently ranked a career-high 10th, has established herself as one of the elite players in college tennis this season. She stands 22-10 in singles, including 10-4 at No. 1, having already defeated 14 ranked opponents. Against ranked foes, she is 14-6 this season, including a 6-1 mark in the spring. She has victories over #5 Amanda Johnson of Duke, #14 Jennifer McGaffigan of Illinois, #15 Luana Magnani of USC, #24 Tammy Encina of Tennessee, #29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona, #30 Dora Vastag of Indiana, #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson, #37 Elizabeth Exon of Michigan, #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary, #42 Jessica Rush of Northwestern, #43 Barbora Zahnova of BYU, #69 Andrea Yung of Northwestern, #79 Shana McElroy of Wisconsin, and #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt. In addition, Salas posted wins over Ohio State’s Lindsay Williams (now 70th) and Wisconsin’s Katie McGaffigan (now 58th), who were both unranked at the time, but are now in the rankings. She also beat Exon (now 72nd) when she was unranked in the fall.
Last fall, she fought through qualifying to reach the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships in October and then gained entrance to the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships the following month due to her runner-up result in the ITA Midwest Championships. She is just the fourth Notre Dame player ever to take part in the first two legs of the collegiate grand slam, joining Melissa Harris (’92), Wendy Crabtree (’96), Jennifer Hall (’99), and current Irish assistant Michelle Dasso (’01). When she moved up to 10th in the most recent ITA national singles rankings, Salas joined those same four as the only Notre Dame players ever listed among the top 10 players in college tennis.
Salas has a 93-35 career singles record, including 21 wins over ranked opponents. Her victory total ranks tied for 12th in the Notre Dame record book.
CLINCHING CATRINA: Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) has provided the clinching victory in four of Notre Dame’s eight wins this spring. She delivered each of the first three Irish triumphs — against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and a 4-3 upset of #14 VCU — prior to clinching the 5-2 win over #26 Indiana on Sunday. Her twin sister, Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) clinched wins over Virginia Tech and Iowa, meaning the Thompson sisters have clinched six of Notre Dame’s eight victories.
TIEBREAKER TITAN: Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) is 5-0 in tiebreakers this season and has won six in a row, dating back to last year. Three of her five tiebreakers this season have been decided by 9-7 scores. Connelly lost her only match tiebreaker of 2003-04, against Ashley James of Virginia Tech, after going 5-0 in them as a sophomore.
STREAK BUSTERS: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 snapped a pair of Rams’ streaks. Prior to the match, VCU had not lost at home in nearly five years, boasting a 40-match winning streak that stretched back to a 5-2 defeat against Virginia Tech on March 28, 1999. In addition, the Rams had won 38 consecutive regular-season contests, dating back to a 4-3 loss to William & Mary exactly two years earlier, on Feb. 13, 2002.
ANOTHER TOP-15 UPSET: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 continued an impressive streak of knocking off top-15 foes. The Irish now have at least one victory over a top-15 team in each of the last 11 seasons, dating back to 1994. In ’93, Notre Dame topped #19 Clemson and #19 Alabama, but was 0-5 against teams in the top 15. During the streak, the Irish have notched 20 victories over top-15 opponents, including five in 1996, highlighted by a 5-4 upset of #5 Texas, which remains the highest-ranked team ever to be defeated by Notre Dame. VCU was the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the Irish on its own home courts since Notre Dame won at #14 William & Mary 5-2 on April 13, 2002.
TWO STARTERS FROM LAST YEAR OUT FOR THE SEASON: A pair of starters from last year’s Irish team are expected to miss all of this spring’s dual-match season with shoulder injuries. Senior co-captain Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), who played No. 1 singles a year ago and was 26th in the preseason national rankings, had to retire in her second match of the season, at last September’s adidas Invitational, and she will not see further action in 2003-04. Leslie, who also missed the spring of 2002 with a shoulder injury, could apply for a fifth year of eligibility. Sophomore Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.), who played No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles as a freshman, underwent shoulder surgery last fall and will miss the entire 2003-04 campaign.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2004 NCAA Championship is a challenging one for Notre Dame. Of the 20 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 18 of them currently carry national rankings, including 14 in the top 50 and 12 in the top 30. A dozen of them earned berths in last year’s NCAA tournament. Two Irish opponents are currently in the top 10 — #3 Duke (L, 1-6) and #6 Northwestern (H, 4/15) — — while six more are in the top 25: #12 North Carolina (L, 0-5),#13 Texas (A, 4/12),#17 BYU (W, 5-2), #18 Miami (H, 4/4), #20 Michigan (L, 3-4), #22 Wake Forest (L, 0-7), and #24 Illinois (L, 2-5).
SISTER ACT: For the second straight season, Notre Dame has an unprecedented two pairs of sisters on its roster in 2003-04. In 2002-03, Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.) and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) joined the Notre Dame squad as freshmen, combining with sisters Maggie Donohue and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) to mark the first time in school history that a team featured two sets of sisters at the same time. Though Maggie Donohue graduated in ’03, the Connellys are joined this season by freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) to give Notre Dame two sets of sisters once again. A total of six sets of sisters have earned monograms in women’s tennis, by far the most of any of the 13 Irish women’s sports.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Jay Louderback is in his 15th season at Notre Dame with a 263-130 (.669) record and his 25th year as a collegiate coach with a 467-308 (.603) mark. He ranks fifth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories. Louderback’s Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 11 seasons, have won 11 conference titles and registered 20 or more victories five times in the last eight campaigns. Since the preseason of the 1995 season, Louderback’s teams have been ranked in the national top 25 in 133 of 139 sets of rankings. After taking over a program looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance, Louderback has helped Notre Dame to the NCAAs 10 times in the last 11 years, including five appearances in the round of 16 and a 1996 quarterfinal finish. Louderback, a four-time Midwest Region coach of the year, has been honored as his conference’s top coach on eight occasions, including five times in eight years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Louderback’s players have earned All-America honors 13 times, won three national ITA awards, and earned 18 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 10 to the NCAA doubles tournament. His players have dominated the University awards during Louderback’s tenure, leading all sports in both Byron V. Kanaley awards (five) and Francis Patrick O’Connor awards (five). His family was honored with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Family of the Year Award for 2002. The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 1989-90 season after coaching for seven years at his alma mater and three years (men and women) at Iowa State.
FORMER NATIONAL No. 1 BROOK BUCK HEADED FOR NOTRE DAME: Head coach Jay Louderback announced recently that Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) has signed a national letter of intent to enroll at Notre Dame and join his team in the fall of 2004. Buck, a three-time Oklahoma state singles champion, was ranked No. 1 in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) girls’ 16-and-under national rankings in January of this year before moving up to the 18-and-under age group. She had an outstanding year of 16s junior action in 2002. In addition to being the singles runner-up at the National Hardcourt Championships, she won three national doubles titles, claiming crowns in the Winter National Championships, the Spring Supernational Championships, and the Supernational Hardcourt Championships. A senior at Oklahoma Christian School, Buck won state No. 1 singles titles in class 3A in 2001, ’02, and ’03, and will go for another next spring. Despite only playing in the 18-and-under division since April of this year, Buck has earned a national ranking of 28th, which places her currently as the 10th-highest-ranked player who will enroll in college next fall.
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 Eileen Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.