July 24, 2017
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame women’s tennis program will welcome back one of its own this season as head coach Jay Louderback has announced the hiring of former Irish All-American and assistant Michelle Dasso to once again complete his staff as assistant coach.
“I am very excited to have Michelle return to the University Notre Dame women’s tennis program,” Louderback said. “She brings a vast amount of head coaching experience as well as her playing experience to help develop our student-athletes. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Michelle as a coach, a person and a player. As a student-athlete at Notre Dame she was a fierce competitor and you could sense how much she loved playing. I observed those same traits in the student-athletes she has coached. Her passion for tennis and the University of Notre Dame make her a perfect fit.”
Dasso (’01) replaces another former Irish All-American in Catrina Thompson, who was named the head coach at Minnesota in June.
Dasso previously served as an assistant under Louderback from 2003-2006 before taking the helm as head coach at Illinois from 2006-15. She spent the 2015-16 season as a volunteer assistant at Duke for head coach Jamie Ashworth and the 2016-17 campaign as an assistant coach under Claire Pollard at Northwestern.
“To be reunited with my true mentor, Jay Louderback, at my alma mater is an incredible feeling,” Dasso said. “Jay has been there for me every step of the way – as a player, coach and person. There is no doubt I have big shoes to fill with the departure of Catrina Thompson. I will work tirelessly to continue the positive impact and strides she made with the program. Lastly, a sincere thanks to (Assistant Athletics Director, Compliance/women’s tennis administrator) Heidi Uebelhor, (Senior Associate Athletics Director) Jody Sadler and the entire Notre Dame administration. To put Irish gear back on in the very near future is simply going to feel magical.”
Last season, she helped the Wildcats to a 15-12 mark, including a 9-2 record in Big Ten play. Northwestern ranked as high as No. 23 in 2017 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship. A pair of Wildcats also advanced to the Round of 16 at the NCAA doubles tournament, with Alex Chatt and Maddie Lipp finishing the season ranked No. 23. Additionally, seven Wildcats earned Academic All-Big Ten honors with Dasso on staff.
While at the helm of the Fighting Illini, Dasso led her teams to a 122-98 record, including a 56-38 mark in Big Ten play. Dasso guided Illinois to four NCAA tournament appearances with the 2012 squad earning a national ranking of No. 21.
A native of Long Grove, Illinois, Dasso helped Notre Dame to a 54-24 (.692) record during her first stint as an assistant. She was named the 2006 ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year after leading the Irish to unprecedented success that year. Notre Dame finished 27-2 on the season and was ranked an all-time high of No. 2 in the country for eight weeks before falling in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship. In the fall of 2005, she handled the on-court coaching as twins Catrina Thompson and Christian Thompson won the doubles crown in the ITA All-American Championships, marking Notre Dame’s first grand-slam title. The Thompsons became ND’s first-ever national No. 1-ranked team in the spring of 2005.
As a player, Dasso is one of the most decorated women’s tennis players in Notre Dame history. She was named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year in 2001 and is the program’s first four-time All-American. She still tops the Irish record books in nearly every statistical category, including career singles victories (140), season singles victories (40) and combined singles and victories in a season (74). Dasso was the 2001 recipient of the Francis Patrick O’Conner Award, presented annually by the University to student-athleteS who best display the total embodiment of the true spirit of Notre Dame.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Notre Dame in 2001, Dasso spent two injury-riddled years playing professionally, ranking as high as 483rd in the world in singles and 388th in doubles, before returning to join the Irish staff in 2003.
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.