June 5, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team was listed 23rd in the final set of Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, released last week by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Three Irish players also finished the season carrying national rankings. In singles, senior captain Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was 119th, while sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) was 124th. Varnum and classmate Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) were ranked 40th in the final set of national doubles rankings.
The Irish finished the season 14-14 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame was the runner-up in the BIG EAST Conference Championship. Of the 25 opponents the Irish faced this season, 17 earned bids to the NCAA Championship and nine were rewarded with top-16 seeds.
Notre Dame was third in the final Midwest Region rankings, behind Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Irish lost 4-3 to the Wildcats in a match decided by a three-set decision in the final match on court. Notre Dame blanked Wisconsin 7-0 during the regular season before losing 4-2 to the Badgers in the first round of the NCAA Championship.
Notre Dame has finished in the national top 25 in each of the last seven seasons and head coach Jay Louderback has guided his squad to top-30 seasons 11 times in his 13-year tenure. Notre Dame also has been ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams in each of the last 117 sets of rankings released by the ITA, dating back to the fall of 1995.
Varnum, an All-American in doubles a year ago, played No. 1 singles for the Irish in 2002. She was the top seed in singles in last fall’s Omni Hotels Region IV Championship and registered four victories over ranked players, including a 6-1, 6-3 triumph over USC All-American Jewel Peterson, who was ranked as high as fifth in the nation this season and finished eight. Varnum was 11th in the Midwest Region singles rankings. The Irish captain finished her career with a 92-66 record in singles, including a 65-44 mark in dual matches, which puts her in a tie for sixth place in Irish history. Varnum posted a 197-118 combined (singles and doubles) record, marking the fifth-highest win total in school history. She was ranked as high as 40th nationally in singles in her career.
After not being a regular member of the Irish lineup a season ago, Salas was the most consistent winner for Notre Dame in 2002. She led the team in both singles and doubles wins, posting a 31-6 singles mark and a 26-12 doubles record, playing mostly No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles. Salas began the spring with 10 straight wins and finished with a 24-3 record in dual matches, tying the school record for dual match singles victories in a season (also done by Marisa Velasco, Jennifer Hall and Michelle Dasso twice). The Irish sophomore earned her first national ranking in February and was ranked as high as 116th. She won all three spring matches against ranked opponents, knocking off a trio of players ranked in the nation’s top 85. Salas’ 47-10 (.825) singles record through two years gives her the second-highest career winning percentage among Irish players.
Varnum and Green played No. 1 doubles until they were split up for the last month of the season. The pair posted a 17-13 record and notched three wins over ranked opponents. Last fall, Green/Varnum earned a season-high ranking of 23rd in the preseason listing and was the top seed in the Omni Hotels Region IV Championship and advanced to the semifinals before falling in a tiebreaker. Varnum and Green completed their careers as two of the finest doubles players in the program’s history. They both posted 105 career doubles victories, placing them in a tie for second place on the all-time list. Varnum, who was 105-52 overall, was 72-31 in dual-match play, becoming just the second player in school history to win 70 or more dual doubles matches. A season ago, the Irish captain set the Notre Dame record for doubles victories in a season with 37. She finished her career with a 47-14 record at No. 1 doubles and was ranked in each of the last 29 sets of national doubles listings, peaking at 5th last season. Green, who was 105-41 overall, placed third all-time in doubles dual-match victories with 67 and became just the fourth player in school history to win 200 combined matches in her career, finishing at 201-98.
Green and junior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) were ranked second in the Midwest Region doubles rankings. The pair teamed up for the first time on March 30 and posted a 6-4 mark together, while earning a berth in the NCAA Doubles Championship. The team delivered impressive wins over Northewestern’s 35th-ranked pair of Piriou/Rush and Duke All-Americans Hillary Adams and Kelly McCain. They finished behind Indiana’s Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran in the regional rankings despite Green/Varnum posting a pair of wins over the Hoosier team. Cunha/Green were ranked as high as 54th in the nation in 2002.