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Three Irish Players, A Trio Of Doubles Teams Listed In Midwest Region Rankings

Dec. 15, 2003

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Three Notre Dame singles players and a trio of Irish doubles teams are listed in the women’s tennis midwest region rankings, announced recently by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). Three Notre Dame players — senior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) and freshmen Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) — were ranked in both singles and doubles. Salas led the way at second in singles and fifth in doubles. Preseason team and the next set of individual national rankings will be released on Jan. 13.

Among the 30 players listed in the singles rankings, Salas was behind only Northwestern’s Christelle Grier, who was fourth in the preseason national listing and beat the Irish co-captain in the final of the ITA Midwest Championships. Christian Thompson came in 11th and Catrina Thompson was 15th. On the doubles side, Grier and Jessica Rush were first, while Salas and sophomore Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) were the top Irish team at fifth. The Thompsons were ranked seventh, while junior Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and sophomore Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) were 15th.

Salas, 63rd in the preseason national rankings, was 12-6 in the fall season with eight victories over ranked foes to her credit. In addition to being the runner-up in the regional indoor tournament, she became the first Irish player in four years to earn invitations to the first two legs of the collegiate grand slam, the All-American Championships and the National Indoor Championships. She beat three ranked players to qualify for the former event, in which Salas upset #29 Dianne Hollands of Arizona. She defeated #15 Luana Magnani of USC at No. 1 in helping the Irish to a 4-3 exhibition triumph over the Trojans, who finished last season ranked fifth nationally. Four of Salas’ six defeats came at the hands of top-10 opponents, while another was against the nation’s No. 27 player. A year ago, Salas made the jump to the top of the Notre Dame singles lineup, playing in the top two spots all season. She finished 24-15 and was ranked sixth in the Midwest Region, earning a berth in the NCAA Singles Championship. She holds a 83-31 (.728) career singles record.

Christian Thompson posted a 12-5 record in her first collegiate fall, highlighted by an eight-match winning streak in October. She was 8-2 against Midwest Region opponents, with her lone defeats coming against Grier and Illinois’ No. 2 player, Tiffany Eklov. Thompson took third place in the white flight of the Kentucky Fall Classic before advancing through qualifying to reach the quarterfinals of the main draw in the Midwest Championships. She beat Bernadette Bayani 6-2, 6-2 at No. 5 in aiding Notre Dame’s win against USC. Thompson, who is the second-highest ranked freshman in the regional rankings behind #5 Elizabeth Exon of Michigan, came to Notre Dame after being ranked the 11th-best 18-and-under player in the country last year — and fifth among current college freshmen. She also has been ranked among the top 1,000 players in the world in singles.

Catrina Thompson was 8-5 this fall, including a pair of victories over top-70 players. She started 5-1, a stretch highlighted by upsets of #69 Andrea Yung of Northwestern and #39 Megan Muth of William & Mary. Thompson reached the semifinals of the “das” flight of the adidas Invitational and was the blue flight runner-up in the Kentucky Fall Classic. She played No. 2 for the Irish against USC, losing to #93 Carine Vermeulen in straight sets. Thompson also became the first Notre Dame player in six tries to top Miami’s Mari Toro, the 2002 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Performer, notching a straight-set triumph in the Midwest Blast. The third-highest ranked freshman in the region (behind Exon and her sister) came to Notre Dame after being ranked the 16th-best player entering college this fall. She has been ranked as high as 1,006th in the WTA world singles rankings.

Salas and Connelly won six of their eight matches together this fall, with their lone defeats coming against #2 Magley/Reyes of Florida and #28 Schlukebir/Tran of Indiana. The Irish pair reached the semifinals of the adidas Invitational and the quarters of the Midwest Championships. Salas and Connelly, listed 36th in the preseason national rankings, won at No. 2 to clinch the doubles point vs. USC. A season ago, the team was 17-9, including 14-7 in the spring, and finished 59th in the national rankings. Salas and Connelly, ranked 11th in the region at the close of the campaign, upset a pair of top-15 teams in the NCAA team tournament to finish the season. The Irish pair was 5-1 as the final match on-court with the doubles point still undecided.

The Thompsons are one of just three all-freshman teams across the country to earn regional rankings. The team was 9-5 in the fall, with two of their losses coming in tiebreakers and two more against ranked foes. The pair reached the quarterfinals of both the adidas Invitational and the Midwest Championships and played No. 1 in a losing effort vs. USC. The Thompsons came to Notre Dame after establishing themselves as the top 18-and-under doubles team in the nation, winning national doubles titles on all surfaces. The other freshman pairs ranked regionally were Monika Peciulionyte and redshirt freshman Simri Van Rooyen (seventh in southwest region) of Texas-Arlington and Arizona State’s team of Kady Pooler and Rebecca Rankin (eighth in west region).

The team of Connelly and Stastny was ranked 43rd in the preseason and was 5-6 this fall. The Irish duo took third place in the blue flight of the Kentucky Fall Classic, reached the round of 16 in the regional tournament, and won at No. 3 vs. USC. Last season, Connelly and Stastny did not play together until late in the season, going 5-3 as a team and providing the biggest victory of the seaosn, an 8-6 triumph over Igna de Villiers and Abby Smith of Miami in the final match on-court with the score tied 3-3 in the title match of the BIG EAST Championship.

Rounding out the top five in singles were Illinois’ Jennifer McGaffigan, Northwestern’s Jessica Rush, and Illinois State’s Lina Suurvarik. In doubles McGaffigan and Cynthia Goulet were second, Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran of Indiana were third, and Angela Buergis and Nischela Reddy of Minnesota were fourth. Irish matches against Indiana (Feb. 29), Illinois (March 4), and Northwestern (April 15) all will be at home this spring.

Duke (March 10 in Wikaloa, Hawaii) and William & Mary (April 10, away) also feature regional No. 1s and will play Notre Dame this spring. Blue Devil Amanda Johnson is first in singles and doubles, with freshman Tory Zawacki, in the southeast region, while the Tribe duo of Megan Muth and Amy Wei is tops in the northeast region.

The ITA releases singles and doubles rankings for each of the eight regions twice a year — in December and at the end of the season. The rankings are used mostly for seeding in the fall regional indoor tournaments and in determining entry for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships.

Notre Dame will begin its spring season Jan. 16-18 in the Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. before commencing dual-match action on Jan. 29 at Michigan and opening its home slate Jan. 31 vs. Ohio State at 11 a.m. (EST) in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.