March 7, 2003
PROVO, Utah & TEMPE, Ariz. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (6-5) will head west for a spring break trip featuring a pair of matches against top-50 teams. The Irish, who moved up to 15th in this week’s ITA national rankings after a pair of 6-1 wins last weekend over teams that made the NCAA round of 16 a year ago, will head to Provo, Utah on Saturday for a 3 p.m. (MDT) match against #49 Brigham Young (4-6). After five days off to practice outdoors, Notre Dame will go to Tempe, Ariz. for a showdown with No. 7 Arizona State (6-1) on Friday, March 14 at 1:30 p.m. (MST). The Irish have won six of nine all-time meetings with the Cougars, but have lost both previous matches against the Sun Devils.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: Notre Dame posted a pair of impressive 6-1 victories at home last weekend, both over squads that advanced deep into the NCAA tournament a year ago. On Saturday, the Irish beat #50 Wake Forest, a 2002 NCAA quarterfinalist, and on Sunday it was #13 Texas, which lost in the round of 16, falling to Notre Dame. The Irish swept the doubles matches and won five of six in singles on both days. Four Notre Dame players posted 4-0 records (in singles and doubles action combined): senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.), junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), and freshmen Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.). In addition, first-year player Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) was 2-0 in doubles. Leslie, playing No. 1 singles for the first time in her career, posted a pair of wins over ranked opponents, topping #98 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest and #105 Kendra Strohm of Texas. The Irish junior has won four straight against ranked foes. Also, Cunha and Stastny upset the 19th-ranked doubles team in the nation, Strohm and Ziva Grasic of Texas.
Sunday was the second annual Ace for the Cure benefit match. Inspired and conceived by Cunha, whose family was recently struck by the disease, the event was intended to increase awareness of the deadly threat of colon cancer among the Michiana community. The ’03 event raised more than $2,500 for colon cancer research, and Cunha provided the clinching win in doubles and was the last player to finish in singles, notching a victory at No. 3. A year ago, the Irish edged BIG EAST rival Miami 4-3 in the first-ever Ace for the Cure, with Cunha providing clinching wins in both singles and doubles.
IRISH vs. COUGARS: Brigham Young is 4-6 (1-0 Mountain West) this season and is currently on a three-game skid, having dropped matches to a trio of top-50 teams (#42 Washington State, #20 Washington, #16 Fresno State) on the road last week. The Cougars were 48th in the preseason national rankings and now stand 49th. BYU and Notre Dame have played one common opponent, with both squads registering a win over Wisconsin. The Irish beat the Badgers 5-2, while the Cougars won 4-3. Brigham Young returned seven of eight letterwinners from last year’s team that was 10-14 (4-3 Mountain West) and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, falling to California in the opening round. In 2002, the Cougars were ranked as high as 31st before finishing 47th. Head coach Craig Manning is in his fourth season with a 40-38 (.513) record.
Notre Dame and BYU will meet for the fifth straight year and the 10th time overall, with each meeting coming since 1991. The Irish lead the series 6-3 and have won each of the last four contests. Brigham Young won the initial meeting 5-4 at home in 1991. Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 20 heading into each of the last nine matches with BYU and this will be the sixth straight time the Irish enter the match with a higher ranking than the Cougars. This will be just the third trip to Provo for Notre Dame, with the teams splitting the previous two. Most recently, the Irish won 7-2 in 2000.
Last season, the 18th-ranked Irish beat #51 Brigham Young 5-2 on Feb. 18 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish swept the doubles matches and won four of six in singles to gain the victory. The Cougars got their points from a straight-set win at No. 3 and a match-tiebreaker victory at No. 5.
IRISH vs. SUN DEVILS: Arizona State stands 6-1 (2-1 Pac-10) with a big weekend of conference matches looming prior to playing host to the Irish. On Friday, the Sun Devils will travel to #3 Stanford and on Saturday they will be at #4 California. That will complete a stretch of four straight matches against teams ranked in the top 10 and three straight vs. top-five foes. The Sun Devils have impressive wins over #9 William & Mary (6-1) and #8 UCLA (4-3) and have lost only to #2 USC (7-0) thus far. Arizona State was sixth in the preseason and now stands seventh. Two singles players and two doubles teams had national rankings in the Feb. 26 listing, though a new set will be released March 12, two days before the Irish and Devils meet. Senior four-time All-American Adria Engel, who has been ranked as high as No. 3 in her career and was ninth in the preseason, is 20th with a 6-1 record this spring and an appearance in the semifinals of the Omni Hotels Southern California Region Championships last fall. Junior All-American Dora Krstulovic is 5-1 this spring and ranked 47th after being No. 21 in the preseason. Senior Mhairi Brown and junior Cindy Sureephong are 5-1 this spring and are 51st in doubles. The pair reached the final in the Southern California Region Championships in the fall. Engel and sophomore Lauren Colalillo have played just five matches together, but are 4-1 and ranked 54th.
Arizona State returned all seven monogram winners from last year’s team that was 15-8 (4-4 Pac-10), reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament before falling to North Carolina, and finished ninth after being listed as high as seventh. Head coach Sheila McInerney is in her 19th year with a 296-169 (.637) record. She has helped the Sun Devils to the final 16 in the NCAA Championship on 16 occasions, including eight quarterfinal finishes. All 18 of her previous teams have finished in the national top 30, including 16 in the top 15.
Notre Dame and the Sun Devils will meet for just the third time ever and the first since 1999. Arizona State has won each of the previous matches by an 8-1 score. Each of the three meetings have come in Tempe and have featured a pair of top-20 teams. Arizona State and Duke are the only two teams on the 2003 Irish schedule that have never lost to Notre Dame. With a win, the Sun Devils could become one of just six teams to have played the Irish more than twice and not lost (Duke-9 matches, Stanford-6, Florida-5, Georgia-5, UCLA-4).
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Boosted by a pair of wins over the weekend, including an upset of then-#13 Texas, Notre Dame moved up to 15th this week among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in the Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings. The ranking is the highest for the Irish since they were 13th in early February of last year. Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last 124 sets of rankings released by the ITA, dating back to fall, 1995.
The new set of individual rankings was released last week, with three of Notre Dame players earning career-best listings. Junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) entered the singles rankings at 44th after not being ranked since the preseason of her freshman season. Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) moved up to a career-high 73rd after being listed 124th in the fall rankings. After three wins over top-25 teams last month, the doubles team of senior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) entered the rankings at No. 31. The listing is the first-ever for Stastny, while Cunha has been ranked in doubles on 14 occasions throughout her career. Another set of team and individual rankings will be released March 12.
BRING ‘EM ON: Notre Dame’s schedule has proven to be even more challenging than it seemed to be at the start of the year. In the first 11 matches, the Irish faced seven teams ranked in the top 30 at the time of the match, and five of those squads are currently listed ahead of Notre Dame (which is 15th) in the national rankings. The Irish are in the midst of a nine-match stretch featuring seven teams that advanced at least to the round of 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament. In all, nine teams on the ’03 slate were among the final 16 a year ago and 10 are currently listed in the top 25. Nineteen of the 21 teams on this year’s schedule are in the national rankings and 15 reached the NCAA tournament in ’02.
KATIE/KIKI KOMBINATION: Senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) have combined to make one of the most dangerous doubles teams in the nation this season. The pair began playing together in the Omni Hotels Midwest Championships in October and is 12-6 overall, including 4-1 against ranked opponents. The Irish team entered the national rankings last week at 31st. Cunha and Stastny have defeated four top-25 teams in the last month: #19 Bunn/Pinchbeck of North Carolina, #13 Adams/McCain of Duke, #22 Castellvi/Schaub of Tennessee, and #19 Grasic/Strohm of Texas. The Duke and Tennessee wins came in consecutive matches, making the team the first Notre Dame pair to down top-25 foes in consecutive matches since Michelle Dasso and Becky Varnum defeated #13 Barnikow/Kalvaria of Stanford (4-6, 6-4, 6-2) and #7 Ulhirova/Walker of Texas (6-0, 6-4) on the same day in the first two rounds of the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in February, 2001.
BACK WITH A VENGEANCE: Irish junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), who missed all of last spring with a shoulder injury after going 30-12 as a freshman, has returned to action this spring with much success. She is 10-5, including 8-3 in dual matches, and is ranked 44th nationally in singles, having defeated six ranked players. Leslie returned after a 14-month layoff at the Collegiate Tennis Kickoff Classic, going 2-2 with wins over #60 Tina Hojnik of Georgia and #83 Jennifer Magley of Florida. After starting the dual-match season 1-3, she has won seven straight matches, including straight-set wins over #15 Amanda Johnson of Duke, #48 Nathalie Roels of Kentucky, #98 Karin Coetzee of Wake Forest, and #105 Kendra Strohm of Texas. Last weekend, she moved into the No. 1 singles position for the first time in her career, registering a pair of wins over ranked players and surrending just six games in two matches. Four of her five losses came to players currently in the national rankings, while the other was in a match tiebreaker. Leslie is 3-1 in doubles this season and 9-1 in her career in partnered play in dual matches.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: After electing to sit out of the singles lineup for the first four matches of the spring, senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) has played well since returning on Feb. 14 vs. Virginia Tech. Cunha, initially playing No. 4 and then moving up to No. 3 for the first time in her career, is 5-2, including an upset of #36 Julie DeRoo of Duke. Prior to dual-match play, Cunha was 2-8 in singles this season.
TAKING A 1-0 LEAD: Since head coach Jay Louderback made a switch in his doubles lineup, the Irish have won the doubles point in three consecutive contests (after losing it in the previous two). On Feb. 24, Louderback inserted Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) into the doubles mix at No. 3. Since then, Notre Dame teams are 8-1 in doubles. Leslie and freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) are 3-0 after not playing together previously. After failing to do so in any prior match this season, the Irish swept the doubles matches against Wake Forest and Texas last weekend, marking the first Notre Dame sweep since April 7 of last year. Overall this season, Notre Dame has won the doubles point seven times in 11 matches and is 5-2 in those contests. In 2002, the Irish won the initial point 16 times in 28 matches.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Masters at Masters.email@example.com.