Oct. 16, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In a prelude to Saturday’s meeting on the gridiron, the Notre Dame women’s tennis team will make its lone home appearance of the fall in an exhibition against USC on Friday afternoon in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Nos. 7 and 8 singles will be played at 2 p.m, with Nos. 4-6 singles starting at 4 p.m. and doubles and Nos. 1-3 singles to follow. The Irish men’s team also will take on the Trojans in a match played concurrently.
IRISH vs. TROJANS: Friday will mark the sixth meeting between Notre Dame and USC. The teams have met three times in the regular season, and the Irish lead the series 2-1. This is the third time the teams have met in the exhibition play. The young USC team returns four letterwinners and boasts six talented freshmen. In 2003, the Trojans reached the NCAA quarterfinals and posted a final record of 22-6. Leading the way for USC is junior Luana Magnani, who reached the second round of the NCAA singles tournament and enters the fall ranked 15th in the nation. Sophomore Carine Vermeulen also holds a national ranking in singles at 93rd. Richard Gallien is in his ninth season as head coach of the Trojans. He is 139-76 at USC and 201-100 in 10 years of coaching.
The last time the teams played, the Irish upset #7 Southern California 5-2 in the opening round of the 2002 USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Notre Dame won the doubles point and four of six in singles to take the decision. The Women of Troy had defeated the Irish by the same score in an exhibition match earlier that season, in October ’01.
ALICIA’S ASSAULT AT ALL-AMERICANS: Senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), ranked 63rd nationally in singles, knocked off four ranked opponents in qualifying and main-draw action at the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate tennis grand slam. In the qualifying draw, Salas battled #85 Ashley Schellhas of Vanderbilt, eventually prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-0. Salas dropped just a single game in her second match of the qualifying draw, knocking off the No. 5 seed, #33 Alix Lacelarie of Clemson 6-1, 6-0. Salas topped #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the main draw, and picked up one more win over a ranked foe, defeating No. 29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona 6-4, 6-3 in consolation play.
Salas is 6-3 on the young season, with the losses coming to players ranked Nos. 7, 8, and 27 nationally. She now has 11 career victories over ranked opponents. Prior to this tournament, Salas’ highest-ranked victim was #54 Melissa Applebaum of Miami in the BIG EAST final a year ago. She posted three wins over top-40 players in the All-American Championships. Salas was the first Notre Dame player to reach the 32-player main draw of the All-American Championships since current Irish assistant coach Michelle Dasso advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament as a senior in 2000.
ALICIA’S ASSAULT AT ALL-AMERICANS II: In winning four of six matches — all against ranked opponents — senior co-captain Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) accomplished a number of notable things.
Oct. 7, when Salas beat both Schellhas and Lacelarie, was the first time since May 23, 2001 that a Notre Dame player defeated two ranked opponents in singles on the same day. On that occasion, current assistant coach Michelle Dasso topped #47 Lenka Zacharova of Weber State 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and #11 Kristina Kraszewski of Washington 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Singles Championship.
The win over Lacelarie marked the most lopsided Irish singles victory against a ranked opponent since Becky Varnum (’02) beat #56 Alena Jecminkova of Kansas State 6-1, 6-0 in the Bulldog Invitational on September 29, 2001. It was the most lopsided Notre Dame win over a foe ranked among the top 35 since Dasso beat #11 Marlene Mejia of North Carolina 6-0, 6-1 on February 11, 2001 at No. 1 singles in a 6-1 Irish triumph.
The last time an Irish player defeated top-40 opponents in consecutive contests was in fall 2001, when Varnum beat #12 Anne Nguyen of Georgia in three sets in the Bulldog Invitational before topping #15 Jewel Peterson at No. 1 singles in an exhibition match against USC.
THE HARDER THEY FALL: Freshman Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) has made an impact early in her colliegiate career, picking up two wins over ranked oppenents already this fall. She topped #69 Andrea Yung of Northwestern in the adidas Invitational, knocking off #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the blue flight finals in the Kentucky Fall Classic. Thompson is 5-2 on the season.
PRESEASON NATIONAL RANKINGS: Two singles players and a pair of doubles teams earned mention in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Assocation (ITA) national singles and doubles rankings, released earlier this month. Seniors Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) are 26th and 63rd, respectively, in singles. Salas also is listed in doubles, at 37th with sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.). Junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) are 44th in doubles. All the rankings except for Stastny’s marked personal career highs, while Leslie’s listing is the highest for an Irish player in singles since current Notre Dame assistant coach Michelle Dasso finished her career ranked fifth in the final listing of 2000-01.
IT TAKES TWO, BABY: Seniors Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) and Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) will serve as co-captains of the 2003-04 Irish squad. It marks just the sixth time in the program’s history and the first in 16 years that Notre Dame will have co-captains. The last time two players shared the captain’s mantle was 1986-87, when Michelle Sadie Dasso and Tammy Schmidt filled the roles.
TOUGH DUAL SLATE AWAITS IRISH: Eight matches against teams that finished 2002-03 ranked in the national top 25 highlight the spring dual-match schedule for Notre Dame. In all, the Irish will face a dozen teams that earned NCAA tournament berths a year ago and 16 that were ranked in the top 70 of last year’s final national rankings. Notre Dame opens 2004 by taking part in the Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. before beginning dual-match play on Jan. 29 at Michigan. It will have nine home matches, highlighted by visits from rivals Northwestern (April 15, ranked 18th at end of ’03) and Miami (April 4, 23rd), as well as Illinois (March 4), which was 22nd in the nation at the end of last year. A brutal road slate includes five matches with teams that finished last year in the national top 15, but for the second time in five years, the Irish will leave the continental United States for regular-season action. Over spring break, Notre Dame will be in Wikaloa, Hawaii for matches against Duke (March 10) and Tennessee (March 13). The Blue Devils reached the final four in ’03 and finished the season ranked third in the nation after being listed No. 1 for the first time in school history earlier in the year. The Lady Vols finished ’03 ranked 10th in the nation. Notre Dame also visited Hawaii in January of 2000, winning two of three matches. Other than those two difficult tests, the Irish will travel to William & Mary (April 10, eighth at end of ’03), North Carolina (March 28, ninth), and VCU (Feb. 13, 15th). Notre Dame will face a pair of different opponents in 2004: VCU and Marquette (April 3 at home).
The fall slate features seven events, but two will be for just the top few Irish players. Notre Dame’s lone home date is an exhibition match vs. USC on Oct. 17.
IRISH AGAIN AMONG NATION’S FINEST ACADEMICALLY: Notre Dame was named a 2002-03 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-Academic Team for the fourth straight year and seventh time in eight years, while also having seven players earn ITA Scholar-Athlete awards. Among Division I schools, only the University of Evansville matched the seven Irish Scholar-Athlete recipients, which is the most by a Division I school in a single year in the 24-year history of the award. Notre Dame also was one of just five schools to earn the team honor and finish in the top 25 of the final ITA national rankings. Winners of the Scholar-Athlete Award were 2003 graduate and team captain Katie Cunha, current senior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.), and sophomores Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.), Liz Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman H.S.), Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Preparatory School), Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.), and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy). The ITA All-Academic Team award goes to teams with a cumulative GPA of 3.20 or better, while the Scholar-Athlete Award honors monogram winners who have a 3.50+ GPA for the year.
Notre Dame has earned mention as an All-Academic team seven times in the eight years since the ITA began the award, missing out only in 1999. Only one Division I program — Western Michigan — has a better academic mark, with the Broncos gaining the distinction every year from 1996-2003. Southern Illinois and the University of Evansville are also seven-time winners of the team honor.tion about the Irish tennis program.
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 all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, 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 Eileen Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org, who also can provide any needed information about the Irish tennis program.