Oct. 13, 2014
By Connor Killoren, Media Relations Student Assistant
Adjusting to new circumstances is rarely a painless experience.
After reaching the round of 16 at last season’s NCAA Doubles Championship with former Irish standout Britney Sanders, Gleason is now paired with Robinson to form a pair that will likely ascend to the team’s No. 1 doubles spot when the spring season arrives.
However, any success to be had by Gleason and Robinson will be partly attributable to assistant coach Catrina Thompson, an invaluable resource who has been working closely with them through the initial portion of the fall season.
A former player under head coach Jay Louderback from 2003-07, Thompson and her fraternal twin sister, Christian, comprised one of the prolific doubles units in Notre Dame women’s tennis history. The pair reached the No. 1 position in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) doubles rankings during the 2005 and 2006 seasons while also becoming the only doubles team in program history to win more than 100 doubles matches.
Thus, there isn’t a more qualified candidate to mentor Gleason and Robinson as they continue to gel.
During that process, Thompson has developed a detailed view of the chemistry between the two players, and a promising one at that.
“They are a good balance,” Thompson says. “Quinn is a little feistier on the court and Monica has that, but she keeps it a little more under control. I think they’re able to balance each other. When Quinn gets a little more into it, Monica is able to calm her down and keep her in control.
“However, Quinn pumps Monica up. I think they have that good balance with each other.”
Yet the most significant aspect of Thompson’s presence is the wisdom she’s able to impart from the success she experienced during her playing days.
“I think one of the biggest areas as coaches that we can help is with the strategy on the court, leaning on past experiences from having been in their shoes,” Thompson says. “We’ve gone through what they’re going to go through. Sometimes, they see what they need to do, but sometimes you don’t make the adjustments that you should, so I think having someone there to provide insight is important.”
The teachings from coaches, while paramount for achieving success, can’t be the sole ingredient in a winning formula. Eventually, players must develop trust in themselves and in this case, in their partners.
While Gleason developed a comfort level and became accustomed to playing with Sanders last season, she’s well on her way to being one half of what is setting up to be a dangerous doubles team with Robinson.
“She will give every point her all,” Gleason says of Robinson. “She always tells me she will put her whole heart into playing every point. I know she’s always trying her best. I never have to question that. She’s always really working hard so that we can both be successful.”
While the most effective way of improving as a doubles team is to gain experience on the court, success is also largely dependent upon the relationship the players have off the court.
And not surprisingly, Gleason and Robinson have developed a tight bond off the court that dates back to Robinson’s visit to check out Notre Dame as a high school senior when Gleason hosted her.
“I think it really translates to the court in a sense of being able to trust each other,” Robinson says. “We have fun off the court, but on the court it’s business and staying focused. At the same time, when a moment gets tense or one of us gets nervous, it’s nice to know that we’re tight off the court. We can calm each other down. It really does help that dynamic on and off the court.
“She was a big influence in my decision to come here. It’s cool to play with her and know that we’ll have time to develop as a doubles team.”
Additionally, Gleason has the good fortune of teaming up with a player in Robinson, who has already this season displayed the type of steely resolve required to become a consistently excellent player.
Thompson noticed it during the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships earlier this month.
“She had a tough loss, and her first question to me the next day was if we could go watch her opponent to see what she could learn,” Thompson says. “I think that shows how determined she is and how much she wants to improve. I think that’s a sign of someone who can be a true champion.”
It’s not only Robinson who has a burning desire to play championship-caliber tennis.
The pair shares a common goal that has ties to a bitter ending to last season for Gleason.
After suffering that round of 16 loss at the NCAAs last season with Sanders, the duo earned a final ITA ranking of 11th, leaving it only one spot short of attaining All-America distinction.
“Being that close is definitely a motivating factor for me this season,” Gleason says. “I know Monica is one of the most motivated people on the team, so it’s going to be great to work with her and strive toward that goal.”
Adds Robinson: “She tells me about that experience. Her having that experience and having been there motivates her and it motivates me, too. I’d love for us to be All-Americans. We’ve both got something to bring to the table. She’s really competitive and I’m really competitive.”
The duo doesn’t lack perspective, though.
The team is in the early stages of fall tournament competition, and the spring season doesn’t begin until January.
“I think the most important aspects of doubles play are mindset and working together,” Gleason says. “Monica is really good at that, so we’re continuing to learn to work with each other.”
With all the time remaining in this young tennis season, Gleason and Robinson have just begun what is sure to be a thrilling ride.
Thompson is sure of it.
“Going forward, Monica and Quinn can achieve a lot of success,” she says.