December 8, 1998

PRINCETON, N.J. – The Notre Dame women’s tennis team has been ranked 16th in the country and first in the Midwest Region heading into the 1999 dual-match season, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association which released the rankings on Tuesday. The Irish, who finished 19-9 a year ago, will play 15 matches against teams ranked in the top 50 and will welcome nine ranked teams to Notre Dame, including second-ranked Duke. Notre Dame opens the season against DePaul in Minneapolis, Minn., on Fri., Jan. 22.

Under 10th-year head coach Jay Louderback, 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. The Irish singles contingent is lead by sophomore Michelle Dasso, ranked 23rd in the country. Dasso advanced to the quarterfinals of the T. Rowe Price National Clay Court championship in September and compiled a 6-4 record in the fall. Two of her six wins came against top 20 players, including a win over seventh-ranked Julie Ditty of Vanderbilt, with all four losses coming to players ranked above her in the latest rankings.

Freshman Becky Varnum, who went 13-5 in the fall, enters the rankings for the first time tied at No. 51 and is ranked higher than all but four freshmen in the country. Varnum posted two over Eastern Michigans 41st-ranked Jean Kansuthi. Irish senior All-American Jennifer Hall rounds out the ranked Irish singles players at 100.

The Irish womens doubles teams of freshman Nina Vaughan and junior Kelly Zalinski enters the rankings at No. 37 with the team of Dasso and Hall right behind at No. 39. Unranked in the preseason, Vaughan and Zalinski went 6-3 during the fall and advanced to the quarterfinals of the ITA Midwest Region championship.