ND Womens Tennis: Doubles teams lead Notre Dame to win over Michigan
BY JOE LINDSLEY
When the No. 27 and No. 28 teams met on the hardcourt Tuesday, a close match was expected.
Notre Dame pulled ahead from the start and prevented Michigan from securing an upset as they won 5-2 in their second to last home game of the season.
"It was a really close match," Irish senior captain Katie Cunha said. "I'm really proud of everyone."
Despite the score, there was a point in the match when the Wolverines had a prime opportunity to rally. Cunha destroyed Michigan's hopes as she defeated Leanne Rutherford 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to bring the score to 4-1 and to guarantee an Irish victory. Cunha also scored a personal victory by ending a four-match losing streak, which was particularly impressive against Rutherford, who has gone 15-1 this spring.
The afternoon began in the favor of the Irish from the start when the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams won their matches to obtain the doubles point for the fifth consecutive time on their home courts. The doubles portion was close though, with the clinching No. 2 match coming down to a tiebreaker after the Wolverines' Michelle DaCosta and Rutherford had upset the 27th ranked duo of Cunha and freshman Kristina Stastny.
Playing at No. 2 doubles, freshman Lauren Connelly and junior Alicia Salas survived Jen Duprez and Kim Plaushines 9-8 (7-3) to give the Irish the advantage heading into singles play. Another junior-freshman duo — Caylan Leslie and Jennifer Smith — contributed to the doubles point as they defeated Joanne Musgrove and Chrissie Nolan, 8-3.
Defeating Michigan in doubles gave the Irish confidence heading into the second portion of the match.
"I was really impressed with their doubles," Cunha said of the Wolverines.
The doubles team of Cunha and Stastny has been a key component of Irish success this season, but of late they have had some struggles.
"We didn't play all that bad," Cunha said of their performance against the Wolverines. "I think we were a little tentative in the beginning of the match. We got down in a hole pretty early, but then we played a little bit better. [Stastny] and I make a great pair, but we're in a little big of a rut."
In singles, Lauren Connelly put the Irish up 2-0 with her efficient 6-1 straight-set halting of Duprez, who had been riding on a six-match winning streak. Then Michigan earned its first point when Plaushines defeated Stastny in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, but No. 65 Salas overcame Nolan 7-5, 6-3.
Then it was up to either Cunha, Leslie or sophomore Sarah Jane Connelly to hand Notre Dame the win.
Leslie, ranked No. 51 nationally, was nearly the clincher, after she had won her first set 6-1 against DaCosta. In the second set she become ill and was forced to retire. Consequently, DaCosta was afforded the win.
After the match was decided, the older Connelly achieved her fifth straight victory when she triumphed 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-3) over Musgrove. Connelly is proving herself to be adept at rallying from behind — each of the last four times she has lost the first set, she has bounced back to secure a win.
In the midst of a week full of matches, the Irish will play No. 54 Purdue at 4 p.m. today in their last home match. Given that Boilermakers beat the Irish last year, there is some desire for vengeance among Notre Dame's players.
"A lot of us want to seek a little bit of revenge," Cunha said.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, March 26, 2003