January 18, 1999

* Irish travel to Minnesota to take on Blue Demons on Fri., Jan. 22
* Minnesota or Pepperdine up next on Sat., Jan. 23
* Irish wrap up successful fall season

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The 16th-ranked Notre Dame women’s tennis team opens its dual-match season this week when the Irish travel to the University of Minnesota for the Federated Insurance Court Classic where they will face DePaul on Fri., Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m. Notre Dame will take on the host Gophers or 15th-ranked Pepperdine on Saturday, depending on the outcome of both matches.

THIS WEEK FOR THE IRISH: Notre Dame and DePaul will meet for the first time since the 1985-86 season when they square off in Minnesota. The Irish have won all six prior meetings with the Blue Demons since the first meeting in 1978.

The winners and losers of the Notre Dame-DePaul and Minnesota-Pepperdine matches will play on Sat., Jan. 23. The Irish and Gophers have met five times, with Notre Dame holding a 4-1 lead in the series, including an 8-1 win in 1998. The Irish and Waves have met three times, with Notre Dame’s only win coming in 1995. Pepperdine won the last match between the two schools, a 5-2 victory in the first round of the 1997 National Team Indoors.

This will mark Notre Dame’s second appearance at the Federated Insurance Court Classic. The Irish went 2-0 in 1996 with wins over Baylor and Vanderbilt.

1999 PREVIEW: The Irish will look to a core group of five returning players from their top six in 1998 and a deep and talented freshman class during the 1999 dual-match schedule. Headlining the returners is senior Jennifer Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.), a ’98 All-American who is on pace to become Notre Dame’s all-time leader in singles wins and combined singles and doubles wins. She has anchored the No. 1 singles spot in Irish lineup in her first three years and is a three-time NCAA singles participant and two-time NCAA doubles participant.

Senior Marisa Velasco (Chula Vista, Calif.) returns after a junior year in which she was one of the best No. 3 singles players in the country, with a 19-4 record and a final ranking of 73. Sophomore Michelle Dasso (Long Grove, Ill.) has little room for improvement after bursting into the Irish record books with her 40-8 singles record and 24-13 doubles record, the most singles and combined singles and doubles wins in a season in Notre Dame history.

With 64 singles wins in just two seasons, junior Kelly Zalinski (Greer, S.C.) has been a force for the Irish at No. 5 singles with her all-court game. She has recorded numerous wins over Nos. 1 and 2 singles players. Junior Sarah Scaringe (Marietta, Ga.) missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. She has recovered well and is ready to bring her strong left-handed serve back to the courts for the Irish. Sophomore Kimberly Guy (Portola Valley, Calif.) worked hard to edge her way into the singles lineup at the end of last spring and looks to build on the momentum after winning two matches in the NCAA regional.

Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) is the highest-ranked of the Irish freshmen and comes to Notre Dame after winning a pair of Intercollegiate Tennis Association summer tournaments. She finished an incredible high school career with four state titles and a 68-0 record. Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.) and Nina Vaughan (Corona del Mar, Calif.) also should contribute right away for the Irish. Green starred at Valhalla High School and finished third at the Southern California Sectionals in 1998. Vaughan was a four-year letterwinner at Corona del Mar High School where she led her team to the California Interscholastic Federation title and Southern California sectionals. Freshman Berica Day (San Antonio, Texas) should provide depth.

ITA RANKINGS: The Irish enter the ’99 dual-match season ranked 16th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after finishing 1998 ranked 19th. Dasso, Varnum and Hall are ranked in the latest rankings released by the ITA on Dec. 8, 1998. Dasso is ranked 23rd after a preseason spot of 17, while Hall is ranked 100. Varnum entered the rankings for the first time after an impressive fall season and is tied for 51st place in the rankings.

Notre Dame also has two doubles teams ranked among the top 50 doubles teams. The duo of Vaughan and Zalinski teamed up for the first time this fall and entered the rankings at No. 37. Dasso and Hall are just behind at No. 39. Notre Dame is one of nine schools to have at least three singles players among the 100 ranked players and one of just seven to have at least two doubles teams among the 50 ranked teams.

FALL REVIEW: Members of the Notre Dame women’s tennis team played in six tournaments in the fall and won six singles and doubles flights. Freshman Becky Varnum led the Irish in wins in the fall with 13 against just five losses. She advanced to the final of her first collegiate tournament at the Eck Classic before losing a three-set match to Marquette’s 26th-ranked Elisa Penalvo. Varnum advanced to the final of the No. 1 flight at the Buckeye Invitational and to the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Region championship before dropping a 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 match to Danielle Lund of Michigan.

Michelle Dasso played in three tournaments in the fall and advanced to quarterfinals of the T. Rowe Price National Clay Court Championships, the first leg of the ITA collegiate grand slam. At the second grand slam, she reached the semifinals of the Riviera All-American Championships consolations after a dropping her first round match to top-seeded Vanessa Webb of Duke. She won two matches before losing a three-set match to Marquette’s eventual champion Ana Fernandez at the ITA Midwest Region championship. She finished with a 6-4 fall record with two of her six wins against top 20 players, including a win over seventh-ranked Julie Ditty of Vanderbilt, and with all four losses coming to players ranked above her in the latest rankings.

Jennifer Hall played in four tournaments and compiled a 5-6 record against some of the top players in the country. Kelly Zalinski won No. 2 singles at the Buckeye Invitational, advanced to the consolation semifinals at the ITA Midwest Region championship and finished the fall with a 12-5 record. Kimberly Guy went 9-6 in the fall with a win over Sarah Scaringe in the final of her singles flight at the Wolverine Invitational.

Lindsey Green posted an 11-4 record and two losses to ranked players to begin her collegiate career. She won four matches to claim the No. 3 singles flight at the Buckeye Invitational. Green qualified for the ITA Midwest Region championship and advanced to the second round before losing to third-seeded Barbara Urbanska of Wisconsin 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Nina Vaughan went 10-5 with a win at No. 4 singles at the Buckeye Invitational.

The doubles pair of Vaughan and Zalinski went 6-3 in the fall to earn a national ranking of 37 with wins over eighth-ranked Brooke Hart and Danielle Lund of Michigan and 30th-ranked Jennifer Embry and Missy Wright of Purdue. The duo also advanced to the quarterfinals of the ITA Midwest Region championship. Green and Sarah Scaringe won the Eck Classic Blue Flight title and reached the quarterfinals of the ITA Midwest Region championship, beating 28th-ranked Shera Wielger and Erin Wolverton in the second round before losing to eventual champions and seventh-ranked Ana Fernandez and Elisa Penalvo of Marquette. The team of Dasso and Hall entered the fall ranked 18th in the country and advanced to the semifinals of the Riviera All-American championships qualifying and the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Regional championships.

IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The Irish, who finished 20-10 a year ago, will play 16 matches against teams ranked in the top 50 and 20 matches against all ranked teams and will welcome nine ranked teams to Notre Dame, including second-ranked Duke. BYU, Duke, Wake Forest and William & Mary, four of the 16 teams that came to Courtney Tennis Center for the 1998 NCAA championships, return to Notre Dame to face to the Irish this year.

DASSO TO COMPETE AT THIRD GRAND SLAM: Michelle Dasso, a quarterfinalist and consolation semifinalist at the first two legs of the ITA collegiate grand slam, will travel to the Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas, Texas, Feb. 4-7, for the 22nd annual Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor championship, the third leg of the grand slam. She lost to William & Mary’s Lauren Nikolaus in a three-set, first-round match a year ago at the Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor championship, the first grand slam event of her career.

FRESHMEN SPARK IRISH: Notre Dame’s freshman class of Berica Day, Lindsey Green, Becky Varnum and Nina Vaughan combined for a 38-22 record during an impressive fall season. They are expected to have the biggest immediate impact since the 1993 freshman class of Wendy Crabtree, Holyn Lord and Sherri Vitale all played in the singles or doubles lineup in their first dual match.

HEAD COACH JAY LOUDERBACK: Jay Louderback is in his 10th year as head coach of the Irish, compiling a 154-82 (.653) record at Notre Dame and a career mark of 358-260 (.579) in 19 seasons of coaching. He has guided the Irish to NCAA championship appearances in five of the last six years, including a national quarterfinal appearance in 1996. His teams have finished among the top 20 teams in the country in four of the last six years and in the top 30 in all but two of his years at Notre Dame. The Arkansas City, Kan., native, and 1976 graduate of Wichita State has been named the ITA regional coach of the year twice in 1995 and 1998 and was named BIG EAST coach of the year after leading the Irish to BIG EAST championship titles in 1996 and 1997. His Notre Dame players have won All-America honors seven times in his nine years.

IRISH LOOK TO CONTINUE MIDWEST DOMINANCE: Notre Dame enters its match against DePaul riding a 10-match winning streak against Midwest regional opponents dating back to a loss to Wisconsin in the 1997 NCAA Midwest Regional. The Irish have rolled through their regional foes, building a 31-4 record against other Midwest region teams since the ’95 season, including 25 wins against Big 10 teams.

HALL HOMECOMING SET: After competing in the Federated Insurance Court Classic this weekend, the Irish women’s tennis team face Kansas State and Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, Okla., the hometown of senior two-time All-American Jennifer Hall. The teams will meet at the Woodlake Racket Club, where the former Putnam High School standout learned the game. Hall amassed a 109-1 high school record at Putnam and won three state championships. She will lead the Irish against Kansas State on Sat., Jan. 30, at 2:00 p.m., and against Oklahoma on Sun., Jan. 31., at 10:00 a.m.