Women’s tennis upsets 24th ranked Irish

Hurricane seniors Igna deVilliers and Abby Smith paired up in doubles play to help the ‘Canes upset Notre Dame in the final regular season match of their careers.
No. 25 Miami recorded victories in all but one match to upset the Fighting Irish who were ranked No. 24 in the nation. The win finalizes the Hurricane’s regular season record at 15-5.
Melissa Applebaum and Megan Bradley made short work of the Fighting Irish pair of Katie Cunha and Jen Smith by topping them 8-2 to start the day. Staci Stevens and Mari Toro also won in doubles play as they defeated Notre Dame’s Sarah Jane Connelly and Kristina Stastny, 8-5. The Hurricane doubles sweep was completed when the senior duo of deVilliers and Smith came from behind to record an 8-5 win against Lauren Connelly and Alicia Salas.
“We just figured that if we came out here today and focused on every single point and just made sure that we all stayed relaxed through all of our shots, it was going to help us win today,” Smith said.
Melissa Applebaum led the way in singles play by cruising to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Salas. The rising freshman star said that Saturday match was about “getting her confidence back, being really consistent, knowing that she was a better player than the other side of the court, and just playing her best.”
After winning an extremely close first set, UM’s Mari Toro handled Katie Cunha easily in the second set. The final score was 7-6 (7), 6-1. Staci Stevens, Sihem Bennacer, and Sara Robbins also contributed victories in singles play for the Hurricanes.
The lone Notre Dame win came in the first singles match when it took Caylan Leslie three sets to record a win against 2002 All-American Megan Bradley. The final score on the main court was 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk was pleased with her teams’ 6-1 victory over the Irish as her squad gets ready to gear up for the postseason.
“This match is big for us,” Yaroshuk said. “Not only because they are ranked one spot above us in the rankings but also because two weeks down the road…Big East [championships]…we want to set a tone going into it.”
The ladies will have two weeks off to prepare for the Big East Championships, which begin on April 25 at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.
Smith and deVilliers were honored before the game, but both know there is plenty more tennis to be played this season. Smith is looking forward to the tournament and feels the home crowd will give Miami an edge in the competition.
“Since it’s going to be at home we’re going to have probably a crowd advantage that’s really going to help us,” Smith said. “Even though we will be high-seeded, we have to stay focused and get the job done at every level.”
The Hurricanes will likely face Notre Dame at some point in the Big East Championships. Applebaum is eager to square off against the best of the Big East.
“We just want to win; we don’t care how we do it,” Applebaum said. “We want to beat Notre Dame. They are one of our biggest rivals. Obviously we want to do it fairly, but we just want to win. We want the championship back on our belt again.”

Ben Wolf can be reached at b.wolf@umiami.edu.