Nov. 8, 2001
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team will play host to the Eck Classic this weekend at the Eck Tennis Pavilion in the final event of the Irish fall schedule. Indiana, Arizona, and Texas A&M round out the field for the tournament, which will run Fri.-Sun. For the first time in 2001, the Eck Classic will feature a “hidden-dual” match format, in which teams play simulated dual matches against each other, but no team scores are reported.
The Irish, ranked 10th in the nation at the end of last season after notching a 25-5 record, competed on four weekends this fall, in preparation for the 2002 dual-match schedule, which gets underway Jan. 26 with a home match against Illinois State.
Senior All-American Becky Varnum (Colorado Springs, Colo.) has had a successful fall season in both singles and doubles. In singles action, the 48th-ranked player in the nation has posted a 5-2 mark, highlighted by three consecutive victories over ranked players, spanning the first two events of the fall. In that streak, she knocked off #12 Anne Nguyen of Georgia in three sets and #15 Jewel Peterson of USC 6-1, 6-3. Varnum was the top seed at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships last month, but fell in the first round.
Varnum also has had doubles success this fall with classmate Lindsey Green (El Cajon, Calif.). The pair was the top seed at the Region IV Championships and advanced to the semifinals before losing in a tiebreaker. Varnum and Green hold a 7-4 doubles mark with close losses to the 20th-ranked and fourth-ranked doubles teams in the nation.
Also reaching the semifinals of the regional tournament was the team of sophomore Katie Cunha (Mercer Island, Wash.) and Sarah Jane Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla.). After starting the season with a six-match losing streak, the pair won four matches before losing to the Indiana team of Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran, which will be at the Eck Classic this weekend.
Cunha and Connelly have also enjoyed singles success this fall. Connelly has posted a 6-2 mark in her first collegiate action, while Cunha won five matches in singles at the Region IV Championships to advance through qualifying to the round of 16 before losing to #34 Lia Jackson of Northwestern. Sophomore Alicia Salas (Engelwood, Colo.) joined Cunha in the round of 16 of the regional tournament. Salas is 4-3 in singles this season, including a three-set loss to #32 Lori Grey of Georgia. Junior Caylan Leslie (Newport Beach, Calif.) is 3-3 in singles this fall with all her losses coming to ranked players. She missed the Region IV Championships with a shoulder injury.
Notre Dame opens play on Friday morning with a pair of singles matches against Texas A&M at 10:15 a.m. The Irish and Aggies will then meet in four doubles matches at 1:30 p.m. Notre Dame will take on Arizona in six singles matches at 2:45 p.m. and then play three doubles matches against the Wildcats at 4:00 p.m., while two Irish players will play singles against Texas A&M at the same time.
Saturday’s action begins with Notre Dame facing the Aggies in four doubles matches (9:00 a.m.) followed by six singles matches (10:15 a.m.) and two more singles matches (11:30 a.m.). Indiana and the Irish will play two doubles matches at 1:30 p.m. and Arizona and Notre Dame will play one doubles match at 4:00 p.m.
On Sunday, Texas A&M and Notre Dame will play two singles matches at 11:00 a.m. The Irish and Hoosiers will compete in two doubles matches and a singles match at Noon and then in three more singles matches at 1:15 p.m.
TOURNAMENT HISTORY AT NOTRE DAME: The 2001 Eck Classic marks the 20th time in Notre Dame women’s tennis history that the Irish have played host to a tournament, in a number of different formats. From 1977-1980, the Irish served as co-host for the Notre Dame-St. Mary’s Invitational each fall. In the falls of 1981, ’84, and ’87, Notre Dame hosted the Irish Invitational. The Eck Doubles Classic was held in the winter from 1988-91. The Eck Classic, in its current incarnation, began in 1992 and has been held each fall since then with the exception of 1999. For the first time in 2001, the Eck Classic will be played in November and will feature a “hidden-dual” match format, in which teams play simulated dual matches against each other, but no team scores are reported.
ITA RANKINGS: Three Notre Dame players are ranked in the ITA preseason rankings. Varnum, who garnered All-America honors in doubles a season ago, is ranked 48th in singles and 23rd in doubles, along with Green. Varnum and Dasso were ranked ninth in last year’s final doubles rankings. Vaughan is 61st in the preseason singles rankings. The team rankings are not released until January. Notre Dame finished 2000-01 ranked 10th nationally after being ranked as high as fifth — the highest ranking in the program’s history.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The Irish again face a difficult schedule in 2001-02. In dual-match play, they will take on 15 teams that participated in the NCAA tournament a season ago, including six squads that advanced to the round of 16. Eleven of the 14 home matches for Notre Dame will be against 2001 NCAA tournament teams, as will seven of the final eight matches overall. That stretch includes road showdowns with round-of-16 participants Wake Forest and Texas, as well as Duke, which was ranked third in the nation at the end of last season. The final home matches of the regular season feature regional rival Northwestern and BIG EAST foe Miami. The Irish will also compete in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the ninth consecutive season. Notre Dame will defend its 2001 BIG EAST championship April 19-21 in Miami.
RECORD-SETTING SEASON: In addition to setting new marks for highest ITA ranking and most victories as a Division I program, 2000-01 featured some individual records. Michelle Dasso completed her career as the all-time leader in career singles (140), doubles (109) and combined (249) victories. Also, Becky Varnum set a new school record for doubles victories in a season with 37, shattering the previous mark of 32 set in 1981 by Pam Fischette. Varnum and Dasso won 21 straight doubles matches at one point last season.