Oct. 24, 2002
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team could not have gotten off to a better start at the 2002 Omni Hotels/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Regional Championships, which opened Thursday at the Michigan State Indoor Tennis Facility in East Lansing, Mich. The Irish won all four of their matches in the singles qualifying bracket, including three in straight sets, to position themselves to have as many as seven players in the main singles draw of 64.
Freshmen Kelly Nelson (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Prep) and Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg HS) got Notre Dame started in the right direction, each winning twice on Thursday. Nelson had the biggest win of the day for the Irish, upsetting eighth-seeded Ayca Gumuscu of Illinois-Chicago in straight sets, 6-0, 6-3. Nelson followed up that win with a hard-fought three-set triumph over Karrie Tyloran of Northern Illinois, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Smith was just as impressive on Thursday after coming into the qualifying tournament as a 9-16 seed. She lived up to her seeding, dispatching Northwestern’s Kristi Roemer, 7-5, 6-2, in the opening round. Smith then defeated Vero Brisnero of Marquette, 6-3, 6-2, to advance to the round of 16.
The top eight players in the qualifying bracket automatically will earn a berth in the main singles tournament, meaning both Nelson and Smith are one win away from qualification. At 9 a.m. (EDT) Friday, Nelson will take on 9-16 seed Brittany Reitz of Purdue, while Smith will battle sixth-seeded Jackie Lescovar of Ohio State for the right to move into the primary singles draw, which begins Saturday at 10 a.m. (EDT).
Five Notre Dame players already appear in the main singles draw — senior Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island HS), junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek HS), sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness HS) and freshmen Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness HS) and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy). Among that quintet, Salas is the only seeded individual, earning a 9-16 seed.
In addition to wrapping up play in the singles qualifying tournament Friday morning, Notre Dame also will begin play in the main doubles bracket Friday at 2 p.m. (EDT). The Irish have four pairings in the event — Salas and Lauren Connelly, Nelson and senior Maggie Donohue (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman HS), Cunha and Stastny, and Smith and Sarah Jane Connelly.
The Omni Hotels/ITA Midwest Regional Championships will continue through Tuesday, Oct. 29, in East Lansing. The top finishers at the regional championships will qualify for the Omni Hotels National Collegiate Indoor Championships, which will be hosted by Southern Methodist University Nov. 7-10 in Dallas.
— ND —
OMNI HOTELS/ITA MIDWEST REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (Day 1)
Singles Qualifying Bracket
Kelly Nelson (ND) d.  Ayca Gumuscu (Illinois-Chicago) 6-0, 6-3 (first round)
[9-16] Jennifer Smith (ND) d. Kristi Roemer (Northwestern) 7-5, 6-2 (first round)
Nelson (ND) d. Karrie Tyloran (Northern Illinois) 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 (second round)
[9-16] Smith (ND) d. Vero Brisnero (Marquette) 6-3, 6-2 (second round)