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Women lose first opener in eight years

Ann Loughery | Friday, January 30, 2004

The No. 21 women’s tennis team lost their first season opener in eight years to No. 34 Michigan Thursday night. The 4-3 Wolverine victory puts the Irish at 0-1 to begin their spring season. Doubles proved to be a weakness for the Irish.At No. 3, junior Sarah Jane Connelly and sophomore Kristina Stastny dropped their match against Michigan opponents Kim Plaushines and Debra Streifler by the score of 8-5. Freshmen Catrina and Christian Thompson also fell to Michigan juniors Michelle DaCosta and Leanne Rutherford 8-6.The nationally ranked duo of senior Alicia Salas and sophomore Lauren Connelly garnered an 8-6 win at No. 2 over Michigan’s Elizabeth Exon and Kavitha Tipirneni. Faring better in singles, the Irish claimed victories with No. 1 Salas defeating Exon 6-2, 6-4; No. 4 Connelly winning 6-4, 6-3 over Chrissie Nolan, and No. 6 Stastny 6-7(3), 6-4, 5-7 triumphing over Kara Delicata. The Irish look to secure victories this weekend and gain momentum for the rest of the season in meets against No. 47 Ohio State and No. 62 Wisconsin. On Saturday, the Irish will challenge the Buckeyes, hoping to continue their eight-match winning streak against the team. The Buckeyes finished fourth last year in the Big Ten and No. 47 overall with a 12-12 record. Ohio State is coming off a 4-3 loss to No. 10 Tennessee last Sunday, and looks to be a threat to Notre Dame with six returning starters. “They have a good indoor team with big kids who hit the ball well,” said Irish coach Jay Louderback of Ohio State’s team. An Irish victory over the Badgers on Sunday depends on the health of Wisconsin’s team, said Louderback.”They’ve had some injuries,” Louderback said. “But they always compete well and the kids are always ready – even on a down year.”Wisconsin has already found success as a team this season with a 7-0 sweep over Drake and a 5-2 win over Western Michigan last weekend. They return four starters from last season’s team, including senior Shana McElroy, who was ranked nationally at No. 103 last year. As a team, Wisconsin finished 11-12 and sixth in the Big Ten last year. Last year’s match between the Irish and the Badgers resulted in a 5-2 Irish victory. Louderback says he expects a similar outcome this weekend.”The kids worked hard to get in shape and they’ve really been preparing in practice. They’re ready to go,” Louderback said.