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Notre Dame Heads To Purdue To Close Out Regular Season

April 20, 2004

NOTRE DAME HEADS TO PURDUE WEDNESDAY TO CLOSE OUT REGULAR SEASON: The 27th-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team (10-9) will conclude the regular season by traveling to #61 Purdue (8-12) for a 1 p.m. (EST) match on Thursday at the Varsity Tennis Courts. The Irish, who have lost three straight — including two by 4-3 scores — fell 5-2 to the Boilermakers in their last trip to West Lafayette, Ind., which snapped a 12-match winning streak for Notre Dame against Purdue.

LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: Wildcat sophomore Jamie Peisel won three straight points with the score tied 4-4 to beat Irish sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 4, handing #11 Northwestern a 4-3 win over #24 Notre Dame last Thursday at the Courtney Tennis Center and Eck Tennis Pavilion. The match lasted five hours and seven minutes, with the final hour and 40 minutes seeing the Wildcats holding a 3-2 lead with the Nos. 4 and 5 singles matches on the court. Notre Dame sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) won six straight games to rally from a 5-1 deficit in the third set in defeating Andrea Yung at No. 5 seconds after Peisel clinched the Northwestern triumph. The Irish swept the doubles matches, highlighted by freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) upsetting the nation’s second-ranked pair.

When the match was moved indoors due to darkness, both Connelly and Stastny were down a set but ahead late in the second. After three straight service breaks, Connelly held in the fourth game of the decisive set to take a 4-1 lead. But Peisel responded by winning four straight games to take a 5-4 advantage. The momentum shifted again, as Connelly held and got a break to go up 6-5. She could not serve out the match, as Peisel delivered the eighth service break of the set to send it to a tiebreaker. The Wildcat held a 4-2 lead in the ‘breaker before Connelly evened the score. Peisel then edged ahead with a backhand winner down the line. A Connelly groundstroke found the net on the next point and a forehand volley shared the same fate on the first match point, giving Peisel a 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) win.

Stastny served for the second set in the first game in the Eck Pavilion, leading 5-4. Yung broke to prolong the frame, but then could not hold, and Stastny served it out to force a third set. The Northwestern junior appeared to be in control of the final set, winning four straight games to open up a 5-1 advantage. She would not win another game, as Stastny took six in a row, denying Yung’s attempts to serve out the set on two occasions for a 6-7, 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Notre Dame became the first team to sweep Northwestern in doubles this season. First off the court were Connelly and senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), who beat Peisel and Alexis Prousis 8-5 at No. 2. Senior Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor School) and junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) then beat Yung and Ruth Barnes 9-7 at No. 3 to clinch the doubles point. In the final match, the Thompsons edged Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation earlier this spring.

Prousis was done first in singles, beating Catrina Thompson 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 to improve to 24-7 this season, including 15-3 in dual action. Sarah Jane Connelly then topped Connie Chiang 6-1, 6-2 at No. 6 to put the Irish ahead again. It was Chiang’s first loss in eight dual matches this season. Grier, ranked third in the nation, improved to 19-1 this season at No. 1 and 44-1 in her career in dual matches (all at No. 1) by beating 11th-ranked Salas 6-3, 6-2. Rush, ranked 55th, put Northwestern ahead for the first time by beating Christian Thompson 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2.

IRISH vs. BOILERMAKERS: After being 41st in the preseason, Purdue stands at a season-low 61st in this week’s national rankings, with an 8-12 record. The Boilermakers are 3-6 in conference play and are ninth in the Big Ten Standings. Purdue will end its regular-season slate on Sunday at Indiana before taking part in the Big Ten Championship next weekend, April 29-May 2, in Evanston, Ill. The Boilers have lost five of their last six matches, including four in a row at home. Half of Purdue’s matches this season have been decided by 4-3 scores, with six of the Boilermaker defeats coming in one-point affairs. Purdue has played three consecutive 4-3 matches, beating Penn State and losing to Michigan State and Michigan. The top win for the Boilermakers this spring was a 4-3 triumph at home against #17 Illinois on March 7, when Hala Sufi and Shawna Zuccarini delivered three-set victories at Nos. 3 and 5 singles to overcome a 3-2 deficit. Purdue had 4-3 losses against LSU (now ranked 20th), #12 Kentucky, and #27 Michigan. None of the wins (other than vs. Illinois) for the Boilers came against teams currently ranked in the top 65. Notre Dame and Purdue have played seven common opponents: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Iowa, and Northwestern. The Irish beat the Buckeyes, Badgers, and Hawkeyes, while the lone Boilermaker victory came against the Illini.

Purdue has a winning record at every position except Nos. 1 and 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. Zuccarini and Sufi are 11-6 at No. 2 doubles, while Lara Burgarello and Alyssa Rodriguez are 17-10 this season, including 11-7 in dual play, mostly at No. 3. Zuccarini is 11-5 this spring, mostly at No. 5, while Sufi is 9-3 at No. 3. The Boilers have won the doubles point 10 times, while losing it nine times and not playing doubles at TCU.

Notre Dame and Purdue players matched up nine times last fall in the Kentucky Fall Classic and Intercollegiate Tennis Association Midwest Championships, with Irish student-athletes winning all but one contest. Notre Dame sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) posted wins against the No. 1 and 4 players for the Boilers. She topped Gretchen Haynor, Purdue’s top player, 6-2, 7-5 in consolation action of the regional tournament after beating Alyssa Rodriguez, who plays No. 4 this spring, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in the white flight semifinals of the Kentucky event. Freshman Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) also beat Rodriguez, taking a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 decision in the third-place match of the white flight in the Kentucky Fall Classic. She also beat Brittany Reitz twice: 7-5, 6-3 in the Kentucky Fall Classic and 6-2, 6-2 in the round of 16 of the Midwest Championships. In doubles, Stastny and junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) got a win against Reitz and Sufi in Kentucky when the Purdue team retired, leading 3-2. The Irish duo also beat Rodriguez and Lara Burgarello 8-4 in the round of 32 of the Midwest Championships. That Boilermaker team posted a win against senior Emily Neighbours (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor School) and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) 8-2 at the Kentucky tournament, while Irish sophomores Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.) and Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Preparatory School) beat Zuccarini and Katie McLevish 8-3 in the event’s green flight semis.

Purdue returned eight letterwinners, including five starters, from last year’s team that was 13-12 and finished 43rd in the national rankings. The Boilermakers were 6-4 in the Big Ten Conference, finishing in a fourth-place tie in the regular season and reaching the semifinals of the conference tournament. Purdue gained an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship and fell 4-1 to #24 Miami in the first round in Lexington, Ky. Amy Walgenbach finished the season 116th in singles, while Reitz and Burgarello were 60th in doubles.

Two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year Mat Iandolo is in his 13th season leading the Purdue program, having helped the Boilers to their first three NCAA tournament appearances (1996, ’98, 2003).

Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the eighth consecutive season and 23rd time overall, with the Irish leading the series 17-5. Purdue won the first two meetings, 7-0 in 1982 at Notre Dame and 8-1 in ’83 in West Lafayette, before the Irish won four in a row. The Boilermakers took a pair of contests in 1986, but the Irish would then win 12 straight prior to a 5-2 Purdue home triumph over 22nd-ranked Notre Dame in 2002. This will be just the seventh trip by the Irish to West Lafayette (just the third since 1991), with the teams splitting the previous six matches. This marks the third straight year and fifth time in the last six meetings that both teams are nationally-ranked heading into the match. It is the 12th consecutive time Notre Dame has been the higher-ranked squad at match time. The Irish have surrendered one or zero points in each of their last five wins against the Boilers.

On March 26, 2003, #48 Notre Dame beat #55 Purdue 6-1 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won the doubles point and five of six in singles to claim victory. Each of the bottom four singles matches was a three-set affair, with the Irish winning the bottom three. The lone Purdue point came from Melissa Iqbal beating Katie Cunha at No. 3. Stastny downed Zuccarini at No. 4, while Sarah Jane Connelly beat Burgarello at No. 5, and Lauren Connelly’s victory against Missy Wright at No. 6 clinched the Notre Dame triumph. The Irish won at Nos. 1 and 3 in doubles.

ITA RANKINGS: After losing 5-2 at #14 Texas on Monday and 4-3 at home against #11 Northwestern on Thursday, Notre Dame fell three spots to 27th in this week’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings, which are determined by the point-per-match computer formula. It matches the lowest ranking of the season for the Irish, who also were 27th in the March 30 listing.

Notre Dame’s top singles player and top doubles team are represented in the most recent set of individual national rankings, released April 20 and also based on the ITA’s computer formula. After going 0-3 (with each match against a top-25 opponent) since the last set of rankings, senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) dropped eight spots to 19th in the singles rankings, her lowest listing since being 63rd in the preseason. She is 23-14 this season, including 11-8 at No. 1 and 14-10 vs. ranked opponents. Only five seniors — California’s Raquel Kops-Jones (#3), Oklahoma’s Anda Perianu (#5), Georgia’s Agata Cioroch (#7), Duke’s Amanda Johnson (#9), and Salas — are ranked among the nation’s top 20.

Despite losing two of three matches since the last set of rankings, freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) moved up 13 places to 44th in the doubles listing, based largely on an upset of the nation’s No. 2 team, Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush of Northwestern. The Thompsons are 19-14 this season, including 10-9 at No. 1. They have four wins over ranked foes. The Thompsons are the lone all-freshman doubles team among the 60 listed in the national rankings.

THOMPSONS LONE ALL-FRESHMAN DOUBLES TEAM IN NATIONAL RANKINGS: Freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) moved up 13 places to 44th in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association national doubles rankings. Arizona State freshmen Kady Pooler and Rebecca Rankin, 58th in the April 6 rankings, fell out of them this week, leaving the Thompsons as the only all-freshman doubles team ranked by the ITA. The duo is 19-14 thisseason, including 10-9 at No. 1. The Thompsons have four wins over ranked foes, including a 9-8 (7-5) victory last Thursday against the nation’s second-ranked team of Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush of Northwestern.

IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE: Notre Dame has struggled this season in outdoor play, going 0-7 in matches played outside. The Irish, who hold a 10-2 record in indoor action, lost to #6 Duke (6-1) and Tennessee (6-1) in Wikaloa, Hawaii over spring break before dropping outdoor road matches against Wake Forest (7-0), #9 North Carolina (5-0), William & Mary (4-3), and #14 Texas (5-2). In the lone match at the Courtney Tennis Center, #11 Northwestern edged Notre Dame 4-3 last week. The Irish have lost eight in a row outdoors, dating back to last season. Notre Dame’s last victory in a match played outside was a 4-0 win against Missouri on May 9, 2003, in the first round of the NCAA Championship in Nashville, Tenn. The Irish were 4-3 in outdoor play in ’03.

GOING OUT ON A HIGH NOTE: Notre Dame will try to snap a two-year losing streak in regular-season finales on Wednesday. The Irish lost 6-1 at #15 Miami in 2003 to close out the regular season after falling 5-2 at #10 Texas in ’02. Prior to the last two seasons, Notre Dame had been victorious in six consecutive regular-season finales.

THOMPSONS UPSET NATION’S #2 DOUBLES TEAM: Freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) defeated the #2 doubles team in the nation, Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush of Northwestern, in dual-match play at No. 1 on April 15 at the Courtney Tennis Center. The Thompsons were victorious 9-8 (7-5), winning in a tiebreaker for the first time in five tries. The last time an Irish team upset one of the nation’s top two doubles teams was Feb. 17, 2001, when current assistant coach Michelle Dasso and Becky Varnum, ranked fifth, beat Pepperdine’s top-ranked pair of Ipek Senoglu and Paola Palencia 8-5 at No. 1 in 6-1 Irish victory in consolation play of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

PENN GRADUATE MELISSA WOODS PLAYING No. 6 SINGLES AND No. 1 DOUBLES FOR PURDUE: Fifth-year senior Melissa Woods, a Granger native and 1999 graduate of Penn High School, is a regular for the Boilermakers. In singles, she is 7-6 at No. 6 and unbeaten in three contests at No. 5. She pairs with senior Gretchen Haynor to form Purdue’s top doubles team, which is 5-14 at No. 1.

CORONA DEL MAR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION?: Notre Dame senior co-captain Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), a 2000 graduate of Corona del Mar High School in southern California, will be reunited with two of her prep teammates on Wednesday. A pair of 2002 graduates of Corona del Mar are on the Purdue roster. Brittany Reitz earned a letter last year and is 5-4 in singles and 2-2 in doubles this season, though she has not seen action in dual-match play. Brittany Minna competed at Cal State Fullerton in 2002-03 before transferring. She was victorious at No. 3 doubles in her only match as a Boilermaker.

FOUR IRISH LOSSES RESULT FROM THREE-SET STRUGGLES: After thriving on close matches a year ago, Notre Dame has struggled to win the tight ones this season, going 1-4 in contests undecided when the doubles point and two-set matches are completed — including dropping a pair of third-set tiebreakers in 4-3 losses, as well as a 7-5 third set in another one-point defeat. Three of the last four Irish contests have been determined by three-set affairs, with the Irish winning two of three three-setters to beat #25 Miami 5-2 at home on April 4 before losing 4-3 at William & Mary and at home against #11 Northwestern. In 2003, Notre Dame was 5-1 in matches undecided after the doubles point and two-set singles matches were completed, going 14-7 in those three-set affairs. This season, the Irish are just 4-10 in three-setters in undecided matches, with sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) accounting for three of the victories. Below are brief accounts of the matches decided by three-setters this season.

* In the spring opener on Jan. 29 at Michigan, the match was tied 2-2, but Michelle DaCosta beat Irish freshman Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) at No. 2 (6-2 in third) and Leanne Rutherford topped junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 5 (7-5 in 3rd) before Stastny beat Kara Delicata at No. 6 (7-5 in 3rd) to make the final score 4-3.

* With the score tied 2-2, #17 Illinois won a trio of three-setters for a 5-2 win in the Eck Tennis Pavilion on March 4. Tiffany Eklov beat Christian Thompson at No. 2 (6-1 in 3rd), while Cynthya Goulet clinched the win by topping sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) at No. 4 (6-3 in 3rd) and Brianna Knue beat Sarah Jane Connelly at No. 5 (6-3 in 3rd).

* Notre Dame’s lone victory in a tight match came on April 4 in the Eck Tennis Pavilion against #18 Miami. Leading 3-1, #4 Megan Bradley beat #10 Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) at No. 1 (6-2 in 3rd) before Stastny topped Audrey Banada at No. 5 (6-4 in 3rd) to clinch the win and Christian Thompson beat Melissa Applebaum at No. 2 (6-3 in 3rd).

* The Irish led 3-1 on April 10 at William & Mary, but the Tribe won all three remaining matches for a 4-3 victory over Notre Dame for the second year in a row. Megan Muth, ranked 25th, upset Salas at No. 1 (6-2 in 3rd) and Amy Wei beat freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) in a third-set tiebreaker (7-3) at No. 3 before Kristen Dunbar won the final match, defeating Sarah Jane Connelly (6-3 in 3rd).

* Northwestern, ranked 11th, led 3-2 with a pair of matches left on April 15 at Notre Dame. Jamie Peisel rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win a third-set tiebreaker (7-4) over Lauren Connelly at No. 4 seconds before Stastny completed a comeback from being down 5-1 to win the third set 7-5 against Andrea Yung at No. 5.

STASTNY TOP PLAYER IN THE CLUTCH THIS SEASON FOR IRISH: Sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) has been Notre Dame’s best player in crunch time of tight matches this season, going undefeated in three-setters in matches that were still undecided after the doubles point and two-set singles matches were completed. In the spring opener, she beat Kara Delicata of Michigan 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 7-5 at No. 6 to make the final score 4-3 seconds after the Wolverines clinched the victory. Twice this month she has rallied from losing the first set for a three-set triumph in a tight match against an Irish rival. On April 4, she came back to beat Audrey Banada 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 5 to clinch the 5-2 Notre Dame win over #18 Miami. Last Thursday, she trailed 5-1 in the third set before winning six straight games to defeat Andrea Yung 6-7 (0-7), 7-5, 7-5 at No. 5 seconds after #11 Northwestern won a third-set tiebreaker to clinch a 4-3 win over the Irish. Dating back to last season, Stastny has now won five in a row when involved in a three-setter in a match undecided after the two-set affairs. After going winless in her first three collegiate opportunities in the situation, she won in three against Purdue and Illinois in helping the Irish to tight victories. Stastny was 6-2 at No. 6 prior to moving up a spot in the lineup this spring. Overall, she is 10-8 in dual matches, and she finished the season on an eight-match winning streak at home.

RARE LOSS AFTER WINNING DOUBLES POINT: After having gone on to win the match 18 consecutive times after winning the doubles point, Notre Dame has dropped two in a row after taking he initial point. The Irish won the bottom two doubles matches at William & Mary on April 10 en route to taking a 3-1 lead before the Tribe rallied for a 4-3 triumph. Last Thursday, Notre Dame became the first team to sweep #11 Northwestern in doubles this season, but then lost a third-set tiebreaker to drop a 4-3 home decision.

SALAS ESTABLISHING HERSELF AS ONE OF NATION’S TOP PLAYERS: Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), currently ranked 19th after being a career-high 10th last month, has established herself as one of the elite players in college tennis this season. She stands 23-14 in singles, including 11-7 at No. 1, having already defeated 14 ranked opponents. She has victories over #5 Amanda Johnson of Duke, #14 Jennifer McGaffigan of Illinois, #15 Luana Magnani of USC, #24 Tammy Encina of Tennessee, #29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona, #30 Dora Vastag of Indiana, #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson, #37 Elizabeth Exon of Michigan, #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary, #42 Jessica Rush of Northwestern, #43 Barbora Zahnova of BYU, #69 Andrea Yung of Northwestern, #79 Shana McElroy of Wisconsin, and #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt. In addition, five more of Salas’ victories were against players that were unranked at the time of the match, but now carry national rankings. She posted wins over Wisconsin’s Katie McGaffigan (now 85th) and Meg Racette of Iowa (now 111th) and as well as Exon (now 101st) when she was unranked in the fall.

Last fall, she fought through qualifying to reach the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships in October and then gained entrance to the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships the following month due to her runner-up result in the ITA Midwest Championships. She is just the fourth Notre Dame player ever to take part in the first two legs of the collegiate grand slam, joining Melissa Harris (’92), Wendy Crabtree (’96), Jennifer Hall (’99), and current Irish assistant Michelle Dasso (’01). When she moved up to 10th in the ITA national singles rankings, Salas joined those same four as the only Notre Dame players listed among the top 10 players in college tennis since the Irish moved up to the Division I level in 1985-86.

Salas has a career 94-39 (.707) record in singles and 79-38 (.675) mark in doubles. She is 12th on the Irish career singles victories list.

CLINCHING THOMPSONS: Freshman twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) have combined to provide the clinching victory in seven of Notre Dame’s 10 wins this season. Catrina delivered each of the first three Irish triumphs — against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and a 4-3 upset of #14 VCU — prior to clinching the 5-2 win over #26 Indiana. Christian clinched wins over Virginia Tech, Iowa, and Marquette.

SALAS/CONNELLY STRONG AT No. 2: Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) lead the Irish in doubles wins this season, with a 20-9 record, including 14-5 in dual matches at No. 2. The duo has had a season full of streaks. Salas and Connelly opened the fall 6-1 and then won seven in a row to begin the spring. After a four-match losing skid, the pair has won sevn of its last eight, including five straight. They are 8-2 at home and 9-3 against Midwest Region foes.

TIEBREAKER TITAN: Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) is 5-0 in tiebreakers this season and has won six in a row, dating back to last year. Three of her five tiebreakers this season have been decided by 9-7 scores. Connelly lost her only match tiebreaker of 2003-04, against Ashley James of Virginia Tech, after going 5-0 in them as a sophomore.

BIG EAST UPDATE: All 14 members of the BIG EAST Conference field teams in women’s tennis, but the league does not require round-robin competition during the season. The top six teams, as selected by the conference based on national ranking and head-to-head results, earn invitations to the BIG EAST Championship, slated for April 29-May 1 in Coral Gables, Fla. at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Miami. The top two seeds receive first-round byes and the tournament champion receives the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. The field will be announced early next week.

Four BIG EAST teams are currently listed in the national rankings, and, thus, figure to be locks to gain entrance in the conference tournament. Miami is 23rd, while Notre Dame is 27th, while Boston College is 56th, and Virginia Tech is 73rd. Notre Dame beat the Hurricanes (5-2), Eagles (6-1), and Hokies (5-2), while Miami beat Virginia Tech (6-1), and the Hokies topped B.C. 4-3.

NCAA SELECTION SHOW SET FOR MAY 5 ON ESPNEWS: The selection show for the 2004 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship is set for Wednesday, May 5 from 4-5 p.m. (EDT) (3-4 p.m. in South Bend). It will feature the announcement of the 64-team field for the NCAA team tournament, as well as the 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams gaining entry to the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships. The first two rounds of the team championship will be played May 14-16 at campus sites, while the final four rounds will be May 20-23 in Athens, Ga. The individual tournaments are slated for May 24-29 in the same location. At 3 p.m. (EDT) on May 25, ESPN2 will feature a highlight show recapping the team championship.

COURTNEY TENNIS CENTER OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Though the Irish frequently practice in the facility, last Thursday marked the first actual women’s tennis match action seen by the Courtney Tennis Center in just under three years, the longest-ever period between matches in the facility. The previous Notre Dame played outside at home was May 12-13, 2001, notching 4-0 decisions in the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship against Eastern Michigan and Tulane. The last regular-season match played at the Courtney Tennis Center was a 6-1 win over Iowa on March 30, 2001. Prior to losing to #11 Northwestern (though the final two matches were finished in the Eck Tennis Pavilion, the Irish had won six in a row at the Courtney Tennis Center. Since the Eck Tennis Pavilion was built in 1988, Notre Dame has played outside at home on 27 occasions, holding a 23-5 (.821) record, with two of the losses coming in the NCAA tournament.

STREAK BUSTERS: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 snapped a pair of Rams’ streaks. Prior to the match, VCU had not lost at home in nearly five years, boasting a 40-match winning streak that stretched back to a 5-2 defeat against Virginia Tech on March 28, 1999. In addition, the Rams had won 38 consecutive regular-season contests, dating back to a 4-3 loss to William & Mary exactly two years earlier, on Feb. 13, 2002.

ANOTHER TOP-15 UPSET: Notre Dame’s 4-3 victory at #14 Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 13 continued an impressive streak of knocking off top-15 foes. The Irish now have at least one victory over a top-15 team in each of the last 11 seasons, dating back to 1994. In ’93, Notre Dame topped #19 Clemson and #19 Alabama, but was 0-5 against teams in the top 15. During the streak, the Irish have notched 20 victories over top-15 opponents, including five in 1996, highlighted by a 5-4 upset of #5 Texas, which remains the highest-ranked team ever to be defeated by Notre Dame. VCU was the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the Irish on its own home courts since Notre Dame won at #14 William & Mary 5-2 on April 13, 2002.

TWO STARTERS FROM LAST YEAR OUT FOR THE SEASON: A pair of starters from last year’s Irish team are expected to miss all of this spring’s dual-match season with shoulder injuries. Senior co-captain Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.), who played No. 1 singles a year ago and was 26th in the preseason national rankings, had to retire in her second match of the season, at last September’s adidas Invitational, and she will not see further action in 2003-04. Leslie, who also missed the spring of 2002 with a shoulder injury, could apply for a fifth year of eligibility. Sophomore Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.), who played No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles as a freshman, underwent shoulder surgery last fall and will miss the entire 2003-04 campaign.

IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2004 NCAA Championship is a challenging one for Notre Dame. Of the 20 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 19 of them currently carry national rankings (all but Marquette), including 13 in the top 50 and 12 in the top 30. A dozen of them earned berths in last year’s NCAA tournament. Eight are currently in the top 25: #5 Duke (L, 1-6), #11 Northwestern (H, 4/15), #12 Texas (L, 2-5), #14 North Carolina (L, 0-5), #17 Illinois (L, 2-5), #20 BYU (W, 6-1), #22 Miami (W, 5-2), #23 Tennessee (L, 1-6).

SISTER ACT: For the second straight season, Notre Dame has an unprecedented two pairs of sisters on its roster in 2003-04. In 2002-03, Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.) and Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) joined the Notre Dame squad as freshmen, combining with sisters Maggie Donohue and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) to mark the first time in school history that a team featured two sets of sisters at the same time. Though Maggie Donohue graduated in ’03, the Connellys are joined this season by freshman twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) to give Notre Dame two sets of sisters once again. A total of six sets of sisters have earned monograms in women’s tennis, by far the most of any of the 13 Irish women’s sports.

IRISH HEAD COACH: Jay Louderback is in his 15th season at Notre Dame with a 265-133 (.669) record and his 25th year as a collegiate coach with a 469-311 (.603) mark. He ranks fifth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories. Louderback’s Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 11 seasons, have won 11 conference titles and registered 20 or more victories five times in the last eight campaigns. Since the preseason of the 1995 season, Louderback’s teams have been ranked in the national top 25 in 133 of 140 sets of rankings. After taking over a program looking for its first NCAA tournament appearance, Louderback has helped Notre Dame to the NCAAs 10 times in the last 11 years, including five appearances in the round of 16 and a 1996 quarterfinal finish. Louderback, a four-time Midwest Region coach of the year, has been honored as his conference’s top coach on eight occasions, including five times in eight years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Louderback’s players have earned All-America honors 13 times, won three national ITA awards, and earned 18 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 10 to the NCAA doubles tournament. His players have dominated the University awards during Louderback’s tenure, leading all sports in both Byron V. Kanaley awards (five) and Francis Patrick O’Connor awards (five). His family was honored with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Family of the Year Award for 2002. The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State arrived at Notre Dame prior to the 1989-90 season after coaching for seven years at his alma mater and three years (men and women) at Iowa State.

FORMER NATIONAL No. 1 BROOK BUCK HEADED FOR NOTRE DAME: Head coach Jay Louderback announced recently that Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) has signed a national letter of intent to enroll at Notre Dame and join his team in the fall of 2004. Buck, a three-time Oklahoma state singles champion, was ranked No. 1 in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) girls’ 16-and-under national rankings in January of this year before moving up to the 18-and-under age group. She had an outstanding year of 16s junior action in 2002. In addition to being the singles runner-up at the National Hardcourt Championships, she won three national doubles titles, claiming crowns in the Winter National Championships, the Spring Supernational Championships, and the Supernational Hardcourt Championships. A senior at Oklahoma Christian School, Buck won state No. 1 singles titles in class 3A in 2001, ’02, and ’03, and will go for another next spring. Despite only playing in the 18-and-under division since April of this year, Buck has earned a national ranking of 28th, which places her currently as the 10th-highest-ranked player who will enroll in college next fall.

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 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, or Eileen Carroll at, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.