March 25, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 27th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team registered a 5-2 victory over No. 28 Michigan (9-4) Tuesday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won the doubles point and four of six singles matches to snap the Wolverines’ four-match winning streak and beat Michigan for the ninth consecutive time. Notre Dame (9-7), which is 7-3 in the Eck Pavilion this spring, will play its final home match of the season on Wednesday at 4 p.m. (EST) vs. #54 Purdue.
Trailing 3-1, Michigan appeared to be on the verge of making the match tight. The No. 5 match was in a third set, while the Wolverines were up a break in the second set at No. 3, looking to send that contest to a decisive frame. At No. 1, Michigan was down a set, but on-serve in the second before eventually forcing a tiebreaker in that set.
It was Notre Dame captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) who shut the door on Michigan, rallying from down a service break in the second set to force, and win, a tiebreaker to clinch the match for her team. Cunha’s 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win over Leanne Rutherford snapped a four-match losing streak for the Irish senior. Rutherford came into the match with a 15-1 singles record this spring and an 18-5 mark overall.
“Katie came back from 5-2 in second set and played as well as she has in awhile.” said Irish head coach Jay Louderback of his captain’s performance. “That was a huge win for us, given what happened to Caylan [Leslie].”
Leslie, who had won 10 of her last 11 matches, was two points from clinching the Irish victory before she had to retire at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker after winning the opening frame 6-1. As a result, Michelle DaCosta gained an upset victory over the No. 51 player in college tennis.
The initial point of the match came down to a tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles, but Notre Dame won it to jump out to a 1-0 lead for the fifth consecutive time at home. Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo/Cherry Creek H.S.) and freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) continued their sizzling play with a 9-8 (7-3) win over Jen Duprez and Kim Plaushines. Salas and Connelly have won seven straight matches and hold a 13-6 record this season.
“Winning that No. 2 doubles match was a big key because that gave us a one-point edge so they [Michigan] were playing from behind the whole time,” said Louderback.
The Wolverines got a good start when DaCosta and Rutherford delivered an 8-2 upset victory over Cunha and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Lous, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy), the 27th-ranked pair in the nation, at No. 1. But Notre Dame rallied with wins at the bottom two positions for the third match in a row. Leslie and freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) improved to 6-2 with an 8-3 triumph at No. 3, setting the stage for Salas and Connelly.
Lauren Connelly was the first off the court in singles with a victory, posting a 6-1, 6-1 decision against Duprez. Connelly held her opponent to five or fewer games for the ninth time this season and dealt Duprez her first dual-match defeat of the season, snapping a six-match winning streak. Duprez was 12-5 overall entering the match.
Plaushines got Michigan on the board with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Stastny at No. 4 before Salas put the Irish within a point of victory with a 7-5, 6-3 triumph at No. 2 over Chrissie Nolan, who was 18-8 heading into Tuesday.
After the outcome was determined, Notre Dame sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) came back from dropping the first five games of the match and eventually the first set to notch her fifth straight victory, 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3) over Joanne Musgrove at No. 5. Connelly has rebounded to win each of the last four times she has lost the first set, rallying for victories vs. Wake Forest, BYU, Arizona State, and Michigan. She has rallied from dropping the opening set to win on six total occasions this season. Musgrove was 11-3 before Tuesday.
#27 Notre Dame 5, #28 Michigan 2
No. 1: Michelle DaCosta (M) d. #51 Caylan Leslie (ND) 1-6, 6-6, ret.
No. 2: #65 Alicia Salas (ND) d. Chrissie Nolan (M) 7-5, 6-3
No. 3: *Katie Cunha (ND) d. Leanne Rutherford (M) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
No. 4: Kim Plaushines (M) d. Kristina Stastny (ND) 6-3, 6-3
No. 5: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Joanne Musgrove (M) 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3)
No. 6: Lauren Connelly (ND) d. Jen Duprez (M) 6-1, 6-1
Order of Finish: 6, 4, 2, 3*, 1, 5
No. 1: DaCosta/Rutherford (M) d. #27 Cunha/Stastny (ND) 8-2
No. 2: *L. Connelly/Salas (ND) d. Duprez/Plaushines (M) 9-8 (7-3)
No. 3: Leslie/Jennifer Smith (ND) d. Musgrove/Nolan (M) 8-3
Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2*