April 2, 2003
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Buoyed by a trio of three-set victories, the 27th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (12-7) triumphed over a top-35 team for the third time in eight days, delivering a 6-1 victory against No. 24 Illinois Wednesday in the Atkins Tennis Center. The Irish won the doubles point and five of six singles contests. Notre Dame, which has won four in a row and eight of its last 10 matches, registered its 11th consecutive victory vs. the Illini (10-5), who boasted a program-best national ranking of No. 17 last week.
Leading 3-1 with the three remaining matches all in third sets, Notre Dame again got outstanding play with the match on the line, winning all three extended contests to secure the final margin. Sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) continued her penchant for starting slow, but rebounding for victory, beating Brianna Knue 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 at No. 5. In her last 10 matches, Connelly has dropped the first set on six occasions, but has rallied to win each time. She is 11-2 this season in matches extending beyond two sets (7-2 in three-setters and 4-0 in match tiebreakers) and is 8-9 when losing the first set.
Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) won her fourth in a row by beating Eldina Fazlic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2, while freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) completed the three-set trifecta with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Eva Choe at No. 4.
The Irish continued their dominating doubles play, winning the initial point for the sixth straight match and ninth time in the last 11 contests. Notre Dame got wins at the bottom two positions to take a 1-0 lead on Wednesday. At No. 2, Salas and freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) won for the ninth time in their last 10 matches, posting an 8-4 victory. The Irish pair is 15-7 this season, including 12-5 in dual matches.
Sarah Jane Connelly and Stastny remained perfect in three matches as a team, winning 8-4 at No. 3. Connelly and Stastny had never played with each other until last Wednesday’s match vs. Purdue, but they have since posted wins against the Boilermakers (8-4), Michigan (8-1), and Illinois.
The Illini pair of Jennifer McGaffigan and Michelle Webb, ranked 15th in the nation, delivered an 8-2 win at No. 1 to put Illinois in a position to claim the doubles point. The Illini pair is 13-2 at No. 1 and 23-4 overall.
Notre Dame junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), ranked 33rd in the nation in singles, continued her strong play at No. 1 by beating #66 McGaffigan 6-4, 6-1. The win was Leslie’s eighth this spring over a ranked opponent, including six in straight sets. She is 7-3 since moving into the No. 1 position for the first time on March 1 and is 13-6 in dual-match action and 15-8 overall.
Lauren Connelly put the Irish within a point of victory by defeating Webb 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) at No. 6. Connelly is 8-2 since being initially slated in the No. 6 position on March 1. Overall, she stands 19-13.
Illinois got on the board when #106 Tiffany Eklov finished a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Irish senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) at No. 3. After being moved down a spot from No. 2 on Sunday vs. Wisconsin, Eklov is 2-0.
Notre Dame will conclude a stretch of seven matches in 13 days, including six against Big Ten teams, by playing at Indiana on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. (EST). After that match, the Irish will have just one more regular-season contest (April 12 at #19 Miami) in the 22 days prior to the BIG EAST Championship, slated for April 25-27 in Coral Gables, Fla.
#27 Notre Dame 6, #24 Illinois 1
No. 1: #33 Caylan Leslie (ND) d. #66 Jennifer McGaffigan (I) 6-4, 6-1
No. 2: #77 Alicia Salas (ND) d. Eldina Fazlic (I) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
No. 3: #106 Tiffany Eklov (I) d. Katie Cunha (ND) 6-2, 6-4
No. 4: Kristina Stastny (ND) d. Eva Choe (I) 7-5, 2-6, 6-4
No. 5: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Brianna Knue (I) 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3
No. 6: Lauren Connelly (ND) d. Michelle Webb (I) 6-1, 7-6 (9-7)
No. 1: #15 McGaffigan/Webb (I) d. Cunha/Jennifer Smith (ND) 8-2
No. 2: L. Connelly/Salas (ND) d. Choe/Fazlic (I) 8-4
No. 3: S.J. Connelly/Stastny (ND) d. Eklov/Knue (I) 8-4