Jan. 18, 2003
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Notre Dame junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) and freshman Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Preparatory School) each split a pair of singles matches on Saturday to complete play in the spring season-opening event, the Collegiate Tennis Kickoff Classic. After not defeating a nationally-ranked player in her first two years of collegiate tennis, Leslie notched her second upset over a ranked player in as many days, downing Florida’s Jennifer Magley, listed 83rd. The 22nd-ranked Irish will open their dual-match season on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. in the Eck Tennis Pavilion vs. Western Michigan.
Leslie, who topped 60th-ranked Tina Hojnik of Georgia on Friday in her first collegiate match in 14 months, defeated Magley 6-1, 0-6, 1-0 (10-4) in a consolation match. The Irish junior, having played nine sets in two days, then retired after dropping the first set, 6-4, to Tennessee’s Crystal Cleveland in her second match of the day, electing to save her strength for dual-match action.
Leslie underwent shoulder surgery after suffering an injury late in the fall of 2001 and was playing in her first collegiate tournament since November ’01 and her first collegiate singles contests since Oct. 19, 2001. Ranked 82nd in the nation in singles heading into her freshman year, Leslie was 30-12 in singles, playing mostly No. 4, and 13-3 in doubles in her first season of collegiate tennis. She was expected to play near the top of Notre Dame’s lineup last year, but missed the entire spring season, as well as the fall portion of this year.
Nelson improved her team-leading total of singles victories to 13 with a 7-5, 3-6, 1-0 (10-7) win against Stanford’s Janna Kao in a consolation match before falling to Evgenia Subbotina of Georgia 6-3, 6-3. The Irish first-year player is 13-7 in her first season of collegiate competition.
Senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island, Wash.) struggled on Saturday, falling 6-4, 6-0 to Subbotina and then dropping a 7-5, 6-1 decision to Kao.
The Collegiate Tennis Kickoff Classic serves as a last-minute replacement event for the National Collegiate Tennis Classic, which was cancelled earlier this week due to sponsorship complications. Each of the seven teams originally committed to that event are participating in the Kickoff Classic, making it one of the most elite collections of talent to be assembled all season. Of the other six teams with players competing, each is ranked in the top 17 of the preseason national rankings, including four in the top five. The field consists of two-time defending NCAA champion and No. 1 Stanford, 2002 NCAA runner-up and No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Georgia, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 17 UNLV, and No. 22 Notre Dame. Notre Dame will face both the Tar Heels (Feb. 1 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion) and the Lady Vols (Feb. 23 in Knoxville, Tenn.) in dual matches this season.
The format of the tournament is a 23-player singles draw and an eight-team doubles tournament with all matches being played at the Fertitta Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The singles bracket features 12 players with national rankings, including five players listed in the top 17, highlighted by No. 1 Agata Cioroch of Georgia and No. 4 Vilmarie Castellvi of Tennessee (who was No. 1 heading into the fall). Sunday’s singles final features Castellvi and 17th-ranked Amber Liu, who upset Cioroch on Saturday, while the doubles title match will have Magley and Zerene Reyes of Florida against Castellvi and Melissa Schaub of Tennessee.
Collegiate Tennis Kickoff Classic
Evgenia Subbotina (Georgia) d. Katie Cunha (ND) 6-4, 6-0
Kelly Nelson (ND) d. Janna Kao (Stanford) 7-5, 3-6, 1-0 (10-7)
Subbotina (G) d. Nelson (ND) 6-3, 6-3
Caylan Leslie (ND) d. #83 Jennifer Magley (Florida) 6-1, 0-6, 1-0 (10-4)
Crystal Cleveland (Tennessee) d. Leslie (ND) 6-4, retired
Kao (S) d. Cunha (ND) 7-5, 6-1