Feb. 27, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 19th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (4-5) will continue a stretch of five consecutive matches against teams that advanced to the round of 16 in last year’s NCAA Championship with a pair of home contests this weekend. The Irish will play host to ’02 national quarterfinalist Wake Forest (1-8) on Saturday at 11 a.m. (EST) before welcoming #13 Texas (4-1) on Sunday for a Noon (EST) match. Notre Dame has won two straight at home against the Demon Deacons, while the Longhorns won in their only previous visit to the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Sunday’s tilt will be the women’s tennis “Gold Game,” as well as the second annual Ace for the Cure, a benefit match designed to increase awareness of the deadly threat of colon cancer.
The “Gold Game,” is a distinction created by the Student-Athlete Advisory Council to encourage the entire Notre Dame community to attend designated contests, while Ace for the Cure is a benefit match inspired and conceived by senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and designed to increase awarness of colon cancer among the Michiana community. For more information, check http://und.ocsn.com/genrel/aceforcure.html.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: The Irish had a disappointing weekend with three close losses to top-25 teams. On Friday, Notre Dame played host to the nation’s No. 1 team for the first time in the program’s history, pulling off three upsets before falling 5-2 to Duke. Senior captain Katie Cunha (Merce Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) had a pair of big wins, teaming with freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) to knock off the All-American tandem of Hillary Adams and Kelly McCain, who were ranked 13th and reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 NCAA Doubles Championship, 8-5. Cunha then went on to upset #36 Julie DeRoo in singles, playing No. 3 for the first time in her career. Junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) also came through in singles with a win over two-time All-American and 15th-ranked Amanda Johnson at No. 2.
Two days later, the Irish again fell short, this time by a 4-3 score on the road against #11 Tennessee. The teams split the singles matches, but the Lady Vols won the doubles point, which turned out to be the difference. Cunha and Stastny registered their second win in as many matches against top-25 teams with an 8-6 triumph over Vilmarie Castellvi and Melissa Schaub, ranked 22nd, at No. 1. In singles, Leslie, Stastny and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) got victories.
On Monday, Notre Dame dropped another 4-3 road decision, this time to Kentucky. The Irish won the doubles point, but dropped four of six singles matches. Leslie topped 48th-ranked Nathalie Roels at No. 2 for her fourth win over a ranked opponent this season, while Stastny won her second in a row in singles. With the match tied 3-3, Amy Trefethen finished a 6-1, 6-4 win over Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 5.
IRISH vs. DEMON DEACONS: Wake Forest enters this week with a 1-8 record and a seven-match losing streak. The Deacons were 15th in the preseason and moved up to 13th in late January, but have fallen to 50th this week. Wake Forest’s victory came in a 6-1 decision over Indiana in the second match of the season. The Deacons are 0-4 in 4-3 matches, losing to Yale, Tulsa, Minnesota, and Michigan. Notre Dame and Wake Forest have played two common opponents, with both teams losing to Northwestern and Tennessee. The Wildcats beat the Deacons 6-1 and the Irish 7-0, while Notre Dame lost 4-3 to the Lady Vols, who beat Wake Forest 5-0. Two Deacon sophomores are nationally ranked in singles: Katie Martzolf (65th) and Karin Coetzee (98th).
The Demon Deacons returned five of eight letterwinners from last year’s squad that was 24-6 (6-2 ACC), advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to Florida, and finished eighth after being as high as No. 2. One key loss was 2003 NCAA singles champion Bea Bielik. Head coach Brian Fleishman, the 2002 National Coach of the Year, is in his fifth season with a 77-30 (.720) record.
Notre Dame and Wake Forest will meet for the 11th straight season and 14th time overall. The Demon Deacons hold an 8-5 advantage, but the Irish have won three of the last five. Wake Forest won in its first three visits to Notre Dame, but has lost in its last two. Six of the previous 13 matches have been decided by one point. This year’s meeting will be the first time since 1996 that Notre Dame enters the match with a higher national ranking.
A year ago, the third-ranked Demon Deacons edged #23 Notre Dame 4-3 at home on March 30. The doubles point, which would prove to be the deciding factor, came to down to the No. 2 contest, which was the last match on-court. Karin Coetzee and Aimee Smith delivered an 8-6 win over Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) to put Wake up 1-0. The teams split the singles matches, with each contest decided in straight sets. Wake Forest got wins at Nos. 1, 2, and 5 to secure the win, including Coetzee finishing a 6-0, 6-3 triumph over Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) at No. 5 with the match tied 3-3.
IRISH vs. LONGHORNS: After dropping a 4-3 decision to Miami in the season opener, Texas had won its next four matches (all against Big 12 teams) heading into a home contest on Thursday with Texas Christian. The Longhorns were 13th in the preseason rankings, moved up a spot briefly and now again hold that ranking. Two singles players and a doubles team hold national rankings. Freshman Kendra Strohm is 105th with a 13-4 record, including 5-0 at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Katie Ruckert was 49th in the preseason and now stands 120th, though she has not seen action this spring. In doubles, Strohm and senior Ziva Grasic are 19th with a 9-2 record, including 6-1 this spring. In 2002, the Longhorns were 20-6 and reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, finishing 10th in the nation after being listed as high as seventh. Head coach Jeff Moore is in his 22nd year with a 442-126 (.781) record and two national championships (’93 and ’95).
Notre Dame and Texas will meet for the eighth time, with each meeting coming since 1990. The Longhorns have won six of the previous contests, including each of the last three. The lone Irish victory was a 5-4 decision on the road in 1996. This marks just the second trip to Notre Dame for Texas, which won 6-3 in its initial visit in 1997. This season will mark the seventh time in the last eight matches that the Longhorns have entered the tilt with a higher ranking.
A year ago, the teams renewed their rivalry after a two-year hiatus, with the 10th-ranked Longhorns gaining a 5-2 win over #25 Notre Dame on April 15 in Austin. Texas swept the doubles matches and took four of six singles contests, which were all decided in straight sets, to gain the win. Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) provided the Irish points, at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Despite a pair of losses last week (Monday’s match with Kentucky was not included in this set of rankings), Notre Dame stayed 19th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in the Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings this week. The Irish have been listed in that spot in three of the last four weeks. Notre Dame has been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last 123 sets of rankings released by the ITA, dating back to fall, 1995.
The new set of individual rankings was released this 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 this 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.
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 nine matches, the Irish faced six 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 19th) in the national rankings. The Irish are in the midst of a five-match stretch against 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.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: 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 are 10-6 overall, including 3-1 against ranked opponents. The Irish team entered the national rankings this week at 31st. Cunha and Stastny have defeated three top-25 teams this month: #19 Bunn/Pinchbeck of North Carolina, #13 Adams/McCain of Duke, and #22 Castellvi/Schaub of Tennessee. The latter two 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, mostly at No. 4 singles, as a freshman, has returned to action this spring with much success. She is 8-5, including 6-3 in dual matches, and is ranked 44th nationally in singles after defeating four 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 five straight matches, including straight-set wins over #15 Amanda Johnson of Duke and #48 Nathalie Roels of Kentucky. Four of her five losses came to players currently in the national rankings, while the other was in a match tiebreaker.
THE HARDER THEY FALL: In last Friday’s match vs. No. 1 Duke, Irish players delivered upsets over a top-15 singles player and a top-15 doubles team. Junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) defeated #15 Amanda Johnson 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles, while senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) upset the 13th-ranked team of Hillary Adams and Kelly McCain 8-5 at No. 1 doubles. Johnson, a two-time All-American who lost only four times in dual-match play in her first two seasons, was the highest-ranked player to fall to a Notre Dame competitor since Becky Varnum topped #15 Jewel Peterson of USC 6-1, 6-3 on Oct. 19, 2001. Adams and McCain, who reached the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA Doubles Championship to earn All-America honors, were the highest-ranked doubles team to lose to a Notre Dame squad since Varnum and Michelle Dasso upset the nation’s No. 1 team, Ipek Senoglu and Paola Palencia of Pepperdine, 8-5 on Feb. 17, 2001.
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.email@example.com, or Chris Masters at Masters.firstname.lastname@example.org.