March 26, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team finished its home slate in style with a 6-1 victory over Purdue (5-8) Wednesday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won the doubles point and five of six singles matches to improve to 10-7 this season. Notre Dame, which was 8-3 at home this spring, won three of four singles matches decided in three sets to beat Purdue for the 13th time in the last 14 meetings.
Holding a 3-0 lead, Notre Dame needed someone to come through with a three-set victory, as each of the remaining four singles contests were in decisive frames. Not one, but three Irish players stepped up to the challenge. Freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) was the first to finish, clinching the win for Notre Dame with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 win over Missy Wright at No. 6 singles. It was the third time this season Connelly provided the clinching victory for the Irish.
Soon thereafter, another first-year player, Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy), gained her first three-set victory in five tries this season. She defeated Shawna Zuccarini 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 at No. 4, coming back from a one-set deficit for the second time in 13 matches in 2002-03.
Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) continued her pattern of starting slowly, but rebounding for victory, gaining a 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 5 over Lara Burgarello, who had defeated the Irish sophomore 6-0, 6-2 in last fall’s Eck Classic. In Connelly’s last eight matches, she has lost the first set on five occasions, but rebounded to win each time, grabbing victories vs. Wake Forest, BYU, Arizona State, Michigan, and Purdue. In all this season, Connelly has dropped the opening frame 16 times, but holds a 7-9 record in those matches. She is 10-2 this season in matches that extend beyond the second set (6-2 in three-setters and 4-0 in match tiebreakers). Overall, Connelly is 19-10, tied for the team-lead in singles victories.
The Irish took a 1-0 lead thanks to a pair of doubles teams that not only had never played together in a match prior to Wednesday, but had not even practiced with each other previously. Sarah Jane Connelly and Stastny combined for an 8-4 win at No. 3 in the first match completed. Senior captain Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island H.S.) and freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) then delivered an 8-3 triumph at No. 1 to clinch the doubles point. Granger, Ind. native and Penn High School graduate Melissa Woods paired with Zuccarini for a 9-7 win at No. 2 for the Boilermakers, snapping a seven-match winning streak for Lauren Connelly and junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.).
Junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) rebounded from having to retire just two points from victory on Tuesday for another impressive win, defeating Gretchen Haynor 6-1, 6-3 at No. 1. Leslie has won 11 of her last 13 matches and is 14-7 overall this season. When the new set of national rankings was released Wednesday, Leslie was listed a career-high 33rd, becoming the highest-ranked Irish singles player since Michelle Dasso finished her career fifth in the final 2001 rankings.
Salas, ranked 77th in singles, put the Irish within a point of victory with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 victory over Amy Walgenbach at No. 2. Salas is 19-13 in singles this season, while Walgenbach was 9-3 in dual matches and held a national ranking heading into Wednesday.
In the other three-set match, Purdue’s Melissa Iqbal, who was playing singles for the first time since Feb. 15 after suffering an injury, notched a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 win over Cunha at No. 3. Iqbal was 70th in the preseason singles rankings and had played No. 1 in each of the five previous dual matches in which she had played singles this spring.
Notre Dame will return to action on Saturday, traveling to Columbus, Ohio to play #35 Ohio State at 1 p.m. (EST).
#48 Notre Dame 6, #55 Purdue 1
No. 1: #33 Caylan Leslie (ND) d. Gretchen Haynor (P) 6-1, 6-3
No. 2: #77 Alicia Salas (ND) d. Amy Walgenbach (P) 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
No. 3: Melissa Iqbal (P) d. Katie Cunha (ND) 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
No. 4: Kristina Stastny (ND) d. Shawna Zuccarini (P) 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4
No. 5: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Lara Burgarello (P) 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-1
No. 6: *Lauren Connelly (ND) d. Missy Wright (P) 6-0, 4-6, 6-4
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 6*, 4, 3, 5
No. 1: *Cunha/Jennifer Smith (ND) d. Haynor/Wright (P) 8-3
No. 2: Melissa Woods/Zuccarini (P) d. L. Connelly/Salas (ND) 9-7
No. 3: S.J. Connelly/Stastny (ND) d. Burgarello/Walgenbach (P) 8-4
Order of Finish: 3, 1*, 2