May 9, 2003
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 21st-ranked Notre Dame women’s tennis team advanced to the second round of the 2003 NCAA Championships with a convincing 4-1 win over No. 38 Missouri on Friday afternoon at the Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Center in Nashville, Tenn., on the Vanderbilt University campus. The Irish won the doubles point and three of the first four singles matches off the court to pick up their 12th win in the last 15 matches and move into the second round for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.
Notre Dame will return to the hardcourts Saturday at 3 p.m. (CDT) against 15th-ranked Vanderbilt (the tournament’s 10th seed), which defeated America East Conference champion Boston University, 4-0, in Friday’s other first-round match in Nashville. The winner of that second-round contest will advance to the round of 16 on May 15 in Gainesville, Fla. Vanderbilt leads the all-time series with the Irish, 3-1.
Junior Alicia Salas (Englewood, Colo./Cherry Creek H.S.) sparked the Notre Dame effort with victories in both singles and doubles play. She began the day by teaming with freshman Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) for an 8-5 upset win at No. 1 doubles over Missouri’s Urska Juric and Katka Sevikova, the 15th-ranked team in the nation. It was the second win over a ranked team this season for the Connelly/Salas pairing, and it provided the clinching win in the doubles competition, giving the Irish the doubles point for 12th time in the last 15 matches.
“I thought the key for us in today’s match was winning at No. 1 doubles,” Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback said. “They (Missouri) have a really good No. 1 doubles team, but we played unbelievably well today. When you get into the NCAA Tournament and you have two good teams going at it, the doubles point is such a key.
Notre Dame (16-8) got going quickly in doubles, as sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and freshman Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) easily downed the Missouri duo of Marry Berry and Kristina Olshanskaya, 8-3 at the No. 2 position. The Tigers evened matters with an 8-5 win at No. 3, but moments later, the Connelly/Salas team clinched their win and put the Irish on top.
Missouri (15-8), which was making its first-ever NCAA Championships appearance, was able to square the match score at one-all, when Juric, ranked 36th in the nation, defeated junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar H.S.) at the No. 1 flight, 6-4, 6-2. However, that lead didn’t last long, as Salas completed a straight-set win over Sevikova at the No. 2 slot, 6-3, 6-2. The Irish junior registered three service breaks in the first set and two more in the second to notch her seventh win in the last eight matches.
Less than 10 minutes later, Notre Dame moved to the brink of victory as Sarah Jane Connelly toppled Olshanskaya, 6-0, 6-1. In that match, Connelly won the first 11 games of the contest en route to her 12th singles win in the last 13 outings. The Irish finished off their win at the No. 6 flight, as freshman Jennifer Smith (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg H.S.) took a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Berry. Smith trailed 4-5 in the first set before rallying to win that frame, and then broke Berry twice in the second set to lock up the first clinching victory of her career.
Once the Notre Dame victory was assured, the remaining two matches on court were abandoned. At No. 3, Stastny had rallied from a service break down and was leading Missouri’s Hana Kraftova, 7-5, 3-2, when play was halted. Meanwhile, Lauren Connelly was also in the second set of her match with Lucie Ruskova, trailing 3-6, 5-2 before the contest was stopped.
“It was great for Alicia (Salas) and Sarah Jane (Connelly) to get up as fast as they did (at No. 2 and No. 4 singles),” Louderback said. “That really took the pressure off our other singles players. I also thought Kristina (Stastny) did a great job fighting back to win her first set. That put us one set up in four of the six singles matches and got us rolling in a hurry.”
— ND —
#21 Notre Dame 4, #38 Missouri 1
NCAA First Round
Brownlee O. Currey Tennis Center – Nashville, Tenn.
No. 1: #36 Urska Juric (MU) d. #39 Caylan Leslie (ND) 6-4, 6-2
No. 2: #94 Alicia Salas (ND) d. Katka Sevikova (MU) 6-3, 6-2
No. 3: Kristina Stastny (ND) led Hana Kraftova (MU) 7-5, 3-2, aban.
No. 4: Sarah Jane Connelly (ND) d. Kristina Olshanskaya (MU) 6-0, 6-1
No. 5: Lucie Ruskova (MU) led Lauren Connelly (ND) 6-3, 2-5, aban.
No. 6: Jen Smith (ND) d. Mary Berry (MU) 7-5, 6-1
Order of finish: 1, 2, 4, 6*
No. 1: L. Connelly/Salas (ND) d. #15 Juric/Sevikova (MU) 8-5
No. 2: S. Connelly/Stastny (ND) d. Barry/Olshanskaya (MU) 8-3
No. 3: Kraftova/Ruskova (MU) d. Leslie/Smith (ND) 8-5
Order of finish: 2, 3, 1*
* – indicates clinching victory