Feb. 20, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 19th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (4-2) has a challenging weekend of action ahead of it, one featuring three matches against top-25 teams in a four-day span. For the first time in the history of the program, the Irish will play host to the nation’s No. 1 team, with a match against Duke (8-0) on Friday at 6 p.m. (EST) in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Blue Devils will be playing as the nation’s top team for the first time in their program’s history. After that tussle, Notre Dame will head to 11th-ranked Tennessee (6-2) on Sunday before facing #25 Kentucky (7-4) on the road on Monday afternoon. The Irish have dropped all nine previous meetings with the Blue Devils, though Duke barely pulled out a 4-3 win in its last trip to the Eck Pavilion. Notre Dame has won in each of its last two trips to Kentucky, but is winless in six previous matches in Knoxville.
LAST TIME ON THE COURT: The Irish moved atop the BIG EAST standings last weekend with a pair of 6-1 wins over two of the best teams in the conference. On Friday, Notre Dame dealt Virginia Tech, who was third in the BIG EAST a year ago, its first loss in 10 matches, though it had to rally from a 1-0 deficit to do so. All three doubles matches were decided by 8-6 scores, but the Hokies won at Nos. 2 and 3 to take the initial point. The Irish responded by winning all six singles contests for the first time this season, taking each in straight sets.
Two days later, Notre Dame topped the fourth-place squad from last year’s BIG EAST Championships, Boston College. The Irish won the doubles point and five of six singles matches to earn their eighth victory in as many all-time meetings against the Eagles. The only B.C. point came at No. 3 singles.
IRISH vs. BLUE DEVILS: Duke has established itself as the top women’s tennis team in the country this season with wins in each of its first eight matches. The Blue Devils were ranked fourth in the preseason and moved atop the rankings for the first time in school history after winning the title of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the premier indoor tournament of the season. Duke topped Kentucky (6-1), #5 North Carolina (6-1), #10 California (4-1), and #2 Florida (4-3) in consecutive matches to claim the school’s first-ever title in the event. Former No. 1 Stanford dropped a 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals to California. Prior to the tournament, the Blue Devils had wins over #12 Northwestern (5-2), Pennsylvania (6-1), #8 Vanderbilt (4-3), and Indiana (7-0).
Every player in both the singles and doubles lineups for Duke holds a national ranking, with seven singles competitors and four doubles pairs listed in the most recent set of rankings. Three singles players have been ranked in the national top 10 at one point in their careers. Sophomore Kelly McCain, who earned All-America honors as a freshman, is No. 2 nationally in singles with a 14-1 record, including 6-0 at No. 1 this spring. She won the title in the ITA All-American Championships, but fell in the semifinals of the National Indoor Championships to current national No. 1 Agata Cioroch of Georgia after topping her in the semis of the All-Americans. Junior Amanda Johnson, a two-time All-American, has been ranked as high as ninth and is currently 15th in singles. Senior Julie DeRoo is 36th after being ranked as high as seventh earlier in her career. Saras Arasu, a sophomore, is listed 43rd, while freshman Julia Smith is 65th, Katie Blaszak is 81st, and Katie Granson is 98th, including a 7-0 mark this spring.
DeRoo and Johnson are 11th in doubles with a 13-3 record (6-1 this spring), while McCain and senior All-American Hillary Adams are 13th. Also in doubles, the team of Arasu and sophomore Susie Abromeit are 46th and Granson and Smith are 49th with a 16-3 mark, including 7-0 this spring.
The Blue Devils are coached by Jamie Ashworth, who is in his seventh year with a 149-22 (.871) record. Ashworth’s teams have won five ACC titles and have advanced to the NCAA semifinals twice and the title match in 1998.
Duke returned eight of nine letterwinners from last year’s team that was ranked as high as second before finishing 25-5 (8-0 ACC) and falling in the NCAA round of 16 by a 4-3 score to VCU and finishing sixth. The Blue Devils previous losses came to Vanderbilt, UCLA, Florida, and North Carolina (ACC Championship match).
Notre Dame and Duke had not met until 1993, but have faced each other once in each of the last 11 seasons. The Blue Devils have won nine of the previous contests, while the ’94 match was suspended with the match tied, 3-3. In each of the Duke wins, the Devils entered the match ranked in the national top six. Duke is 4-0 at Notre Dame, but the Blue Devils barely pulled out a 4-3 win in their last trip in the 2001 season opener. Duke is the only team the Irish have played more than six times without registering a victory.
A year ago, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils claimed a 6-1 home victory over the #23 Irish. In the midst of three road matches in four days against top-seven opponents, Notre Dame narrowly missed grabbing the doubles point. In the deciding match, Abromeit and Granson topped Nina Vaughan and Becky Varnum 9-7 at No. 3. In singles, the Blue Devils won five of six matches, though three contests (Nos. 3, 4, 5) went to three sets. Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) was the lone Notre Dame player to turn in a victory, downing #64 Arasu 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 at No. 4.
IRISH vs. LADY VOLS: Tennessee enters the weekend at 6-2, having dropped only 4-3 decisions to #9 UCLA and #14 Northwestern, both in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Lady Vols, who will play host to Indiana on Saturday, have wins over Middle Tennessee State, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Tulsa, and Wake Forest. Tennessee is ranked 11th this season after finishing last year 12th following a 21-10 (7-5 SEC) season in which the Lady Vols put together a run to the NCAA semifinals before losing to Florida. The Lady Vols have one singles player and two doubles teams with national rankings. Senior Vilmarie Castellvi was the preseason No. 1 in singles and is now fourth. She is 22-4, including 11-1 this spring. Castellvi and freshman Melissa Schaub are 22nd in doubles, having posted a 14-2 mark together, including 7-1 at No. 1 doubles. Junior Tammy Encina and freshman Sabita Maharaj are 53rd.
Co-head coaches Mike Patrick and Sonia Hahn-Patrick guide Tennessee’s program. Patrick is in his 16th season at the school with a 269-154 (.636) record. In her seventh season as co-mentor, Hahn-Patrick is 124-55 (.693).
Notre Dame and Tennessee will meet for the 15th time. The Lady Vols hold a 9-4 advantage and have won each of the last three. The Irish took the first meeting in 1986 by a 5-4 count and last beat Tennessee by the same score in 1998. This will mark the fifth straight meeting that both teams were ranked in the national top 20 at the time of the match. Notre Dame is winless in six previous trips to Knoxville.
A year ago, eighth-ranked Tennessee picked up a 6-1 road win over #18 Notre Dame in February. The doubles point came down to the last match on-court, but Castellvi and Agnes Wiski won at No. 1 to give the Lady Vols a 1-0 lead. Tennessee then won five of six in singles to claim the win. Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) picked up the lone Irish win in singles with a 6-4, 7-5 upset of 77th-ranked Wiski at No. 4. The No. 5 match was decided in a match tiebreaker.
IRISH vs. WILDCATS: Kentucky is 7-4 heading into a busy weekend in which it will travel to North Carolina on Friday before playing host to Purdue on Sunday and the Irish on Monday. The Wildcats have dropped decisions to Virginia, Michigan, #1 Duke, and #12 William & Mary. Texas A&M, Indiana and Northwestern (in a 4-3 decision) are among Kentucky’s victims this spring. The Wildcats were 14th in the preseason and now stand 25th. Three singles players and two doubles teams hold national rankings. Two-time All-American Sarah Witten, a senior, is 37th in singles, while freshman Nathalie Roels is 48th and senior Amy Trefethen is 89th. In doubles, Witten and Roels are 16-6, including 5-2 at No. 1, and are ranked 10th. Trefethen and classmate Jill Buckley are ranked 17th with a 14-6 record and the Omni Hotels Southeast Championships doubles title to their credit.
The Wildcats return six of their eight letterwinners from last year’s squad which was 18-9 (6-7 SEC) and finished 15th after losing to eventual national champion Stanford in the NCAA round of 16. Kentucky is coached by Mark Guilbeau, who is in his seventh season with a 93-67 (.581) record.
Kentucky and Notre Dame will meet for the 12th consecutive season. The Irish hold a slim 6-5 advantage in the previous meetings and had won three in a row before the Wildcats pulled out a 4-3 decision in 2002. Kentucky won the initial meeting 7-2 in 1992 at home. This will mark the sixth time that both teams were ranked in the top 25 at the time of the match, though the Irish have held a higher ranking than Kentucky heading into each of the last eight meetings. Notre Dame is 3-2 in Lexington, though the Irish have won two straight (1999 and 2001).
In 2002, 24th-ranked Kentucky snapped #13 Notre Dame’s 13-match home winning streak with a 4-3 win in early February in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The doubles point came down to the last match on-court, but Witten and Carolina Mayorga gained an 8-6 win over Lindsey Green and Becky Varnum to give Kentucky a 1-0 lead. In singles, the Wildcats got straight-set wins at Nos. 1, 2, and 6 to clinch the victory. Nina Vaughan, Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.), and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) each delivered wins for the Irish in the team’s first loss of the season.
NOTRE DAME vs. No. 1: Friday will mark the seventh time since 1994 that the Irish have faced the nation’s No. 1 team. Notre Dame is winless in the matches with its best effort coming in a 5-2 loss to Stanford in 2000. Duke will be the first No. 1 team ever to play at Notre Dame and the highest-ranked squad to visit the Eck Tennis Pavilion since the #2 Blue Devils came in 1999. The highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by the Irish was No. 5 Texas, which suffered a 5-4 loss at home to Notre Dame in 1996. The highest-ranked foe to fall to the Irish at Notre Dame was No. 8 Wake Fores in a 5-0 decision in 2001.
ACE FOR THE CURE SET FOR MARCH 2: The second annual Ace for the Cure colon cancer benefit will take place Sunday, March 2 before the Irish battle #14 Texas in a Noon match. Inspired and conceived by senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.), whose family has been afflicted by the disease, this event is designed to increase awareness among students, faculty, staff, and the Michiana community as to the deadly threat of colon cancer. Health care specialists will be on hand to distribute information and answer questions regarding detection and screening, while the match will also serve as a fund raiser to benefit ongoing colon cancer research. Last year’s initial Ace for the Cure was a great success, and following it, the Irish went on to a thrilling 4-3 win over BIG EAST rival Miami with Cunha providing the clinching wins in both singles and doubles.
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.