June 20, 2006
Notre Dame women’s tennis assistant coach Michelle Dasso – the 2006 ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year – has tendered her resignation in order to be hired as the new head women’s tennis coach at the University of Illinois. Dasso spent three seasons as an assistant with the Irish, helping Notre Dame win nearly 70% of its matches during that time and achieve several program firsts in individual action.
University of Illinois director of athletics Ron Guenther announced the selection of Dasso on June 13. The seventh head coach since the inception of the Illini program, she replaces Sujay Lama, who resigned after eight seasons leading the program.
“I loved my experience at Notre Dame as both a student and a coach,” said Dasso. “I will definitely miss it a lot and am sad to leave. I had such good relationships with our players as well as with [head coach] Jay [Louderback], both playing for and working with him. I am excited for the opportunity to coach my own team, but I truly cherish the time I have had at Notre Dame and the relationships I forged there.”
“We will really miss her a lot,” said Louderback. “Michelle did a great job for us here. I know she will be an outstanding head coach, and I’m really excited for her. She really deserves it; she’s put in a lot of time and effort both playing and coaching, and I am happy she has this opportunity. I think she’ll do a great job for Illinois.”
Dasso will take over an Illinois program that graduates just one player from last year’s squad that was 8-15 and finished tied for eighth in the Big Ten Conference with a 2-8 record. The Fighting Illini have missed the last two NCAA tournaments after qualifying for all but one from 1999-2004. Illinois finished in the national top 25 of the ITA rankings in both 2003 (22nd) and ’04 (24th). The Illini are the second-most-common opponent in Irish women’s tennis history, with Notre Dame holding an 18-9 all-time edge in the series, including wins in 13 of the last 14 matchups.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to come to the University of Illinois,” said Dasso. “I’d like to personally thank Ron Guenther and Vince Ille for showing me their vision for Illinois tennis and allowing me to be a part of it. When I came to campus I was blown away by the top-notch facilities, great people and support system. The excitement surrounding tennis at Illinois is amazing and I’m looking forward to building the program and competing for championships in the future.”
Dasso continues a trend of Notre Dame assistants in all sports landing head-coaching assignments, as she is the 13th to do so over the past four years, as well as the eighth in the last 15 months. Other recent Irish assistants who have been hired as head coaches were Robin Davis (volleyball, Boise State), Brian Wiese (men’s soccer, Georgetown), Zoltan Dudas (fencing, Princeton), David Grewe (baseball, Michigan State), Pam Mork (women’s rowing, Cincinnati), Carrie Nixon (women’s swimming and diving, Notre Dame), Carol Owens (women’s basketball, Northern Illinois), Alvin Alexander (women’s soccer, Xavier), Brian O’Connor (baseball, Virginia), Anthony Solomon (basketball, St. Bonaventure), Billy Pate (men’s tennis, Alabama), and Kevin McGuff (women’s basketball, Xavier).
“I am excited to have Michelle join our staff as women’s tennis coach,” said Guenther. “She comes highly recommended by respected coaches, players and influential people in the tennis community who have identified her as an exceptional coach and person. Her experience as a player and as a coach is outstanding and will allow her to become established here very quickly. She is extremely competitive and will be a terrific fit into the Fighting Illini family.”
A native of Long Grove, Ill., and a 1997 graduate of Stevenson High School, Dasso helped Notre Dame to a 54-24 (.692) record during her time as an assistant. She was recently named the ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year after leading the Irish to unprecedented success in 2005-06. Notre Dame finished 27-2 on the season and was ranked an all-time high of #2 in the country for eight weeks before falling in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. In the fall of 2005, she handled the on-court coaching as twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) won the doubles crown in the ITA All-American Championships, marking Notre Dame’s first grand-slam title. The Thompsons became ND’s first-ever national #1-ranked team in the spring of 2005. She also recently helped Notre Dame sign a three-player class that will join the Irish this fall ranked as the #1 group in the country by TennisRecruiting.net.
As a player, Dasso is the most decorated women’s tennis player in Notre Dame history. She was named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year in 2001 and is the program’s only four-time All-American. She still tops the Irish record books in nearly every statistical category, including career singles victories (140), season singles victories (40) and combined singles and victories in a season (74). Dasso was the 2001 recipient of the Francis Patrick O’Conner Award, presented annually by the university to one male and one female student-athlete who best display the total embodiment of the true spirit of Notre Dame.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Notre Dame in 2001, Dasso spent two injury-riddled years playing professionally, ranking as high as 483rd in the world in singles and 388th in doubles, before returning to join the Irish staff.