Womens Tennis: Irish continue to dominate Big East
By JOE LINDSLEY
Heading into the weekend, Miami was the only Big East opponent that had defeated Notre Dame since the Irish joined the conference in 1996.
After a weekend in which the No. 21 Irish played two Big East opponents, that fact still holds true. Notre Dame achieved two victorious 6-1 performances as the Irish defeated Virginia Tech Friday and Boston College Sunday.
The all-time Irish record against Big East competition now stands at 31-3.
In many ways, the weekend served as a respite of sorts for an Irish squad that faces a generally rigorous schedule.
"It's kind of good to be both the underdog and the favorite at different times during the season," junior Alicia Salas said. "I think this weekend was important to play a couple of Big East matches, to gain some confidence."
The Irish will need confidence when they face No. 1 Duke Friday, No. 12 Tennessee Sunday and No. 30 Kentucky Monday.
Additionally, Notre Dame's two previous matches — which both resulted in losses for the Irish — were against No. 5 North Carolina and No. 16 Northwestern.
According to Salas, the Eagles and the Hokies were "maybe a bit [of a respite] in the midst of these tough matches."
Regardless, the Irish were not able to just coast through Boston College and Virginia Tech.
"We knew both of the teams were going to be tough," Salas said. "Individually, we've had close matches when we've played these teams before."
Notre Dame had to come from behind Friday after losing the doubles point against Virginia Tech. Doubles play has been a strong point for the Irish this season, so the failure to secure the point against the Hokies was a bit of a surprise for the Irish.
"It was kind of disappointing to lose the doubles point against Virginia Tech, just because we have been playing so well in doubles," Salas said. "We played a lot better [Sunday]."
The Irish kept the Eagles from soaring by taking the doubles point Sunday. Sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly and freshman Jennifer Smith began the match with their 8-0 victory over the Eagles' Morgan Landes and Emily Yeomans. Then, Connelly's younger sister, Lauren, and Salas defeated Allison Ashley and Szilvia Szegedi, 8-2.
"It's a young team, so we have freshmen at every spot in our doubles team," Salas said. "But they've done so well. Doubles has been really strong."
In singles play, Salas dominated Szegedi once again, with her 6-2 straight sets at the No. 1 flight. The lone Eagles point came after Ashley defeated Irish freshman Kristina Stastny, 6-3, 6-2. Junior Caylan Leslie and freshmen Lauren Connelly and Smith contributed to the Irish win with their singles victories.
Against the Hokies, the Irish claimed every singles match after losing the doubles point.
Salas, Leslie, Stastny, Katie Cunha and the Connelly sisters all won their matches in straight sets
"We knew it was going to be tough, but we definitely thought that these were both teams ranked below us that we felt we should beat," Salas said of the weekend's two efforts. "Everyone played great, everyone got at least one win under their belt."
The Irish hope that the weekend's victories will aide them in the face of stiff competition next weekend.
"It gives us a lot of confidence," Salas said. "It's always nice to play these matches and to play well. It gives us a lot of confidence when we head down to the tournament in the spring."
The team is looking forward to the opportunity to clash with the Blue Devils Friday.
"It's exciting," Salas said. "We're definitely the underdogs, so there's no pressure. It'll be fun just to go out there and play as well as we can. We've always had good matches with Duke."
All Sports Stories for Monday, February 17, 2003