May 5, 2006
For the second consecutive year, Irish junior Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) earned invitations to both the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Singles Championship and the NCAA doubles tournament – along with her twin sister, Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) – when the fields for the national individual championships were announced Thursday evening. The twins – the only team in the nation to have been invited to the last three NCAA doubles tourneys – were awarded the No. 3 overall seed, assuring that they will repeat as ITA All-Americans and also marking an all-time program high, while Catrina Thompson is one of just 12 players who have earned spots in both the singles and doubles draws in the last two years. The events are slated for May 23-28 at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center.
Catrina Thompson, who enters the postseason ranked 30th nationally in singles, was an automatic qualifier for the second straight year. This season the NCAA changed the qualification process to mirror that of the team event, meaning that the top singles player and top doubles team (providing they are nationally-ranked) in each of the 31 conferences earned automatic bids, with the remainder being filled by at-large selections. Thompson – the tournament MVP in both of the last two years – earned the BIG EAST’s automatic bid in singles as its highest-ranked player. The conference did not gain an at-large berth, though 60th-ranked Courtney Vernon of South Florida is the second alternate to the field.
The Thompson sisters, ranked third in college tennis after ascending to the national #1 ranking for the second time in their careers earlier this spring, earned the league’s automatic bid in doubles, while the BIG EAST also saw the USF team of Gabriela Duch and Neyssa Etienne, ranked ninth, earn an invitation. The Irish twins delivered Notre Dame’s first-ever title in an ITA grand slam – of which the NCAA tournament is the final leg – by taking the doubles crown in the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships last fall.
This marks the 11th time in the last 14 years that a Notre Dame player has garnered a spot in both the NCAA singles and doubles championships, but it was done previously by just three individuals other than Thompson: Wendy Crabtree (1993, ’94, ’95), Jennifer Hall (1997, ’98, ’99), and current assistant coach Michelle Dasso (1999, 2000, ’01).
The Thompsons will be the only doubles team that has taken part in the 2004, ’05, and ’06 NCAA doubles tournaments, and just three others – Iva Gersic/Maja Kovacek (New Mexico), Olga Borisova/Marianna Yuferova (VCU), and Duch/Etienne – also were in last year’s draw.
Thompson has posted a career high in singles victories this season with a 27-10 overall record, including 12-10 vs. nationally-ranked players. She is 17-5 in dual-match action in her second season filling the No. 1 spot. Thompson has won four in a row overall and eight straight against lower-ranked players (26-5 on the season). She was named the BIG EAST tournament MVP for the second straight year (having lost just 12 total games in 10 sets against league foes this season) and has a 17-8 record on the road (including six straight wins), as well as a 9-5 mark in outdoor play. She has won 15 consecutive matches when taking the opening set to improve her career record when winning the opening frame to 63-6. Thompson reached the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships last fall and has been nearly perfect against the region, posting a 15-2 mark. Her biggest victory of the season came on March 15, when then-#1 Daniela Bercek of Duke retired due to injury at 4-4 in the first set. Thompson was ranked 27th in the preseason and has been in the top 35 all season, peaking at a career high of 24th on Jan. 10. She holds a 71-35 career record, including 46-23 in dual matches and 26-21 vs. nationally-ranked players.
Fifteen of her matches this season (41%) came against players that earned NCAA berths, and Thompson held a 7-8 record against that group, with the victories coming Bercek and Jackie Carleton from Duke, Texas A&M’s Anna Lubinsky, USC’s Anca Anastasiu, Jenna Long of North Carolina, Eva Wang from Harvard, and Iowa’s Meg Racette.
A season ago, Thompson was one set away from being an All-American in singles, as well. She beat Arizona State’s Sophia Capannolo 6-0, 6-2 in the opening round of the NCAA singles bracket and then lost 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 to Mississippi’s Chloe Carlotti.
The Thompson twins stand 22-4 together on the season, including an 8-2 record against nationally-ranked teams. They are 16-3 at No. 1 doubles this season and have won nine of their last 10. The sisters are 14-2 on the road and a perfect 11-0 in outdoor matches; their last outdoor defeat was a 6-1, 6-2 decision against TCU’s Ana Cetnik and Story Tweedie-Yates in the round of 16 of last year’s NCAAs. They also reached the round of 16 as freshmen in 2004, eventually falling in three sets. The Thompsons have been ranked in the top 10 all season and have yet to face a higher-ranked squad in 2005-06. They are a perfect 5-0 in close matches (8-6, 9-7, or 9-8 scores), including a tiebreaker victory against the Fresno State team of Lucia Sainza and Katharina Winterhalter in the final of the All-Americans. During their careers, they hold a 72-28 (.720) record together, including 28-15 vs. nationally-ranked opponents.
The Thompsons played eight matches against NCAA qualifiers this season – in addition to several more against teams featuring one player that earned a bid to the NCAAs – posting a 6-2 mark. They fell in the quarterfinals of the second leg of the grand slam, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, to eventual champion Alice Barnes and Anne Yelsey of Stanford, currently ranked #1. The twins will try to complete the grand slam with another strong showing at the NCAAs, which has never seen an Irish team reach the semis (three have lost in the quarterfinals).
The eight seeded teams already have assured themselves of being named ITA All-Americans in doubles, and they will be joined by the tournament’s quarterfinalists, as well as any squad finishing in the national top 10. Barnes and Yelsey are the event’s top seed, while Melissa Applebaum and Audra Cohen of Miami are the second seed, and Gersic and Kovacek are fourth. Prior to this year, Notre Dame had never had a top-four seed in the doubles draw, with three teams being tabbed Nos. 5-8 seeds, including the Thompsons a year ago.
The other elite players who earned NCAA invitations in both singles and doubles in both 2005 and ’06 are Alice Barnes (Stanford), Audra Cohen (Miami), Kim Coventry (Kentucky), Zsuzsanna Fodor (California), Cristelle Grier (Northwestern), Maja Kovacek (New Mexico), Amber Liu (Stanford), Kristi Miller (Georgia Tech), Anne Yelsey (Stanford), Marianna Yuferova (Virginia Commonwealth), and Riza Zalameda (UCLA). The others who are in both draws this year are Suzi Babos (California), Helena Besovic (TCU), Ramona But (Maryland), Dominika Dieskova (Oregon), Bianca Dulgheru (Pepperdine), Celia Durkin (Stanford), Alexis Gordon (Florida), Laura Gordon (UCLA), Hannah Grady (Long Beach State), Margarita Karnaukhova (Sacramento State), Jenna Long (North Carolina), Alexis Prousis (Northwestern), Luana Magnani (USC), Dianne Matias (USC), Lindsay Nelson (USC), Robin Stephenson (Alabama), and Frederica van Adrichem (Clemson).
This will be the 12th time in the last 14 years that Notre Dame has had at least one entry in both the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments. Since 1989 (a span of 18 years), Notre Dame competitors have garnered 21 invitations to the national singles tournament and 13 to the doubles event.
The singles championship will begin May 23 with opening-round play and will continue with one round per day. The doubles tournament starts the 24th and also proceeds with one round each day. A full list of all qualifiers can be found on www.ncaasports.com. The Tennis Channel will provide coverage of the singles and doubles finals.
The Thompsons will first lead Notre Dame in the NCAA Team Championship, which gets underway May 12. The Irish, ranked second and seeded an all-time high of No. 2, will play host to early-round action at the Courtney Tennis Center, playing Valparaiso at 1 p.m. (ET) in the opening round.