May 19, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The 2003 season finally came to an end for two Notre Dame women’s tennis players, as juniors Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) lost in the opening round of the 2003 NCAA Singles Championships at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla., on the campus of the University of Florida. Leslie and Salas each were making their first appearance in the NCAA singles tourney, and it was the fifth time in school history the Irish had sent two players to the event.
Leslie, the nation’s 39th-ranked player, dropped a prolonged three-set match to Candice Fuchs of William & Mary, 6-4, 1-6, 6-0. The contest, which lasted nearly two hours in near 100-degree heat, proved to be redeeming for Fuchs, who had lost to Leslie in straight sets back on March 23. Despite the loss, Leslie finishes with a 17-11 record this season, her first since recovering from major shoulder surgery which caused her to miss virtually all of the 2001-02 campaign.
Meanwhile, Salas also came up short in NCAA first-round match, losing to the tournament’s second seed, Christelle Grier of Northwestern, 7-5, 6-0. Not only was Salas facing one of the top young players in the nation (Grier was the 2003 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year as a freshman), but she also had to deal with an opponent who only recently had been reinstated by the NCAA following a brief investigation into her eligibility. In addition, it was the third time this season that Salas and Grier had matched up, with each player claiming a victory thus far.
Grier was forced to sit out Northwestern’s NCAA loss to Kansas State, and understandably, she was a bit rusty in the first set of the rubber match. However, she rebounded and finished off Salas in the second set, completing her victory in an hour and 35 minutes. Salas closes out her junior year with a 24-15 record, including wins in seven of her last nine singles matches.
Leslie and Salas will be just two of nine monogram winners (and five everyday starters)returning next season for veteran Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback. This past season, the Irish posted a 16-9 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Championships for the ninth time in 10 years.
— ND —