Jan. 10, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame junior twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) are once again the top-ranked doubles team in college tennis, as they moved back up to #1 in the latest edition of the Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings administered by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), which were released on Tuesday. The twins – who are both also ranked among the top 50 in singles (Catrina 24th, Christian 44th) – lead a contingent that made Notre Dame the only school in the country to have a trio of nationally-ranked doubles teams. Sophomore Brook Buck (Yukon, Okla./Oklahoma Christian School) and freshman Kelcy Tefft (Enid, Okla./Chisholm H.S.) are 35th, while the pair of seniors Lauren Connelly (Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness H.S.) and Kristina Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Joseph’s Academy) came in 45th. As a team, Notre Dame will begin the dual-match portion of the 2005-06 campaign tied for 22nd.
It is the second time that the Thompson sisters have been ranked #1 in the nation. They achieved that listing on Feb. 22, 2005, but it was short-lived, as the twins were defeated in their first match after that and fell to #2 in the next of rankings before finishing 2004-05 at fifth. Never before have the Irish boasted three nationally-ranked doubles teams at the same time. Notre Dame has multiple players among the top 50 in the nation in singles for the first time since the initial set of spring rankings in 1998-99, when current assistant coach Michelle Dasso was eighth and Becky Varnum was 47th. Notre Dame is one of just a dozen schools with multiple players among the top 50 in singles, along with Baylor, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia Tech, New Mexico, North Carolina, Northwestern, Stanford, TCU, and William & Mary.
Also announced recently by the ITA were the regional rankings for both singles and doubles. Notre Dame was one of only five Division I schools – along with #1 Stanford, #5 USC, #9 Baylor, and #17 California – to have its entire lineup earn regional ranks. In addition to having six players among the top 30 in the Midwest Region, three of the top five doubles teams in the region belong to the Irish; the Thompsons were #1, while Buck and Tefft came in fourth, and Connelly and Stastny were fifth. Only one other school (Northwestern) had even multiple squads among the 15 Midwest Region doubles teams listed. In singles, Catrina Thompson led the way at third, while Christian Thompson was 10th, Buck came in 14th, Tefft was 18th, Connelly was 25th, and Stastny was 27th. The last time ND had the top doubles team in the Midwest Region rankings was at the conclusion of the 2000-01 campaign, when Dasso and Varnum held that spot. Catrina Thompson is the highest-ranked ND singles player in the regional rankings since Alicia Salas concluded her career at #2 in 2003-04.
The Thompsons – formerly the #1-ranked 18-and-under doubles team in the country during their days in junior tennis, which saw them claim six USTA Super National gold balls – had an outstanding fall despite only competing in three events. They delivered Notre Dame’s first-ever title in a collegiate grand slam by downing three top-10 teams and then saving two match points en route to a thrilling tiebreaker triumph in the title match of the Riviera ITA All-American Championships. After a win at No. 1 against USC in a dual match, the twins tried to become the first team from any school ever to win both of the first two legs of the grand slam, but were denied, losing to Alice Barnes and Anne Yelsey from Stanford – the nation’s current #2 team – in the quarterfinals. The Thompsons, 6-1 heading into the spring, already boast victories this season over the teams currently ranked #2, #3 (Maja Kovacek/Iva Gersic of New Mexico), #4 (Katharina Wintherhalter/Lucia Sainz of Fresno State), and #5 (Gabriela Duch/Neyssa Etienne of South Florida). Those quality wins allowed them to pile up 72.62 points in the computerized rankings, while Barnes and Yelsey were relatively far behind at 61.65.
Buck and Tefft – who combined to win five USTA Super National championships together in junior tennis before being reunited this fall – were 10-2 during the fall, winning the Hoosier Classic title with a victory over #19 Sarah Batty/Laura McGaffigan of Indiana in the final and then reaching the semis of the ITA Midwest Championships. Both of their defeats came against teams currently ranked among the national top 10 (#8 Grier/Prousis of Northwestern, #9 Magnani/Fink of USC). The match against the Women of Troy came down to a tiebreaker. Buck and Tefft were 60th in the preseason, and this marks a career-high listing for the sophomore.
Connelly and Stastny were nationally ranked for the first time together, though both have been listed previously with two other partners each. The team of seniors was 11-5 this fall, winning the consolation championship in the A flight of the Maryland Invitational and then advancing to the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships. That run featured a win over Batty and McGaffigan, the team they had lost to in the semis of the Hoosier Classic earlier in October.
Catrina Thompson is the highest-ranked Irish player in the national listing since Salas finished her career in 2003-04 at 22nd. The current junior edged up three spots from her preseason listing – which had already been a career high – after a 10-5 fall in which she had several opportunities for more big victories. All of her defeats came in three sets vs. players now ranked among the national top 40: #2 Anne Yelsey of Stanford, #12 Alexis Prousis from Northwestern, #13 Robin Stephenson of Alabama, #16 Boglarka Berecz of Florida, and #35 Kelly Anderson from Georgia Tech. She was the runner-up in the consolation bracket of the All-American Championships. She then won at No. 1 against USC and advanced to the semifinals of the ITA Midwest Championships. Among her notable victories were beating Duke’s Jackie Carleton (now 27th) and Purdue’s Hala Sufi (29th).
Christian Thompson earned a career-high listing in singles, as well. She began the fall with five consecutive victories against ranked players to battle her way through prequalifying and all the way to within one victory of the main draw of the All-American Championships. She dropped a third-set tiebreaker at No. 2 in the final match on court with the score tied 3-3 in the dual match against USC and then reached the final 16 in the ITA Midwest Championships.
Notre Dame is tied with South Carolina for 22nd in the team listing. It is the 15th consecutive season that the Irish are among the top 25 in the preseason ITA rankings. ND is second among teams in the Midwest Region, behind only #6 Northwestern, whom it plays at home on April 5. The Irish are one of a pair of BIG EAST Conference teams in the rankings, as newcomer South Florida – which will host the conference tournament from April 19-22 – is 45th. It is the first time the league has had two squads in the top 50 since the final set of rankings in 2003-04, when Miami was 15th, and Notre Dame was 27th.
In all 17 of Notre Dame’s opponents are listed among the top 55, including seven in the top 25: #3 Texas (March 20, away), Northwestern, #8 Vanderbilt (March 29, away), #11 North Carolina (Feb. 12, away), #14 Duke (March 15, in Orlando, Fla.), #18 Harvard (Feb. 19, home), #19 Tennessee (Feb. 18, home), #21 BYU (Feb. 25, home), and #24 Wake Forest (Feb. 11, away). The Irish lost a third-set tiebreaker in the final match on court (and a tiebreaker in the decisive doubles match) in a 4-3 exhibition decision in the fall against USC, which is ranked fifth.
Buck, who was 54th nationally in singles in the preseason, went 6-3 during fall action after suffering from mononucleosis over the summer. She was the runner-up in the A flight of the Hoosier Classic and went unbeaten in three matches in the Midwest Blast. Buck finished her rookie campaign ranked ninth in the Midwest Regional rankings.
Tefft had a strong start to her collegiate career, going 8-1 in singles with the lone defeat coming in the ITA Midwest Championships to fellow rookie Randi Schuler of Purdue. She claimed the C flight title in the Hoosier Classic and prevailed against USC at No. 6 singles. She did not lose a set in her eight victories and held opponents to two games or fewer in 13 of those 16 sets. Tefft is ranked fourth among regional rookies, behind Schuler (6th), Northwestern’s Georgia Rose (7th), and Dunja Antunovic of DePaul (16th).
Connelly posted an 8-6 record during the fall, but will begin the spring having won six of her last seven matches, with the lone defeat coming in the round of 16 of the ITA Midwest Championships against regional #1 Alexis Prousis. She knocked off #117 Beatrix Csordas of DePaul en route to reaching the final 16 of the event and then went 3-0 in the Midwest Blast.
Stastny is a career-high 27th in the regional listing following a fall in which she was 9-4. She won backdraw championships in both the Maryland Invitational (A flight) and Hoosier Classic (B flight) and also prevailed at No. 5 singles against #19 Carine Vermeulen of USC.
The Irish will begin the dual-match portion of their 2005-06 season on Saturday, Jan. 28 with a home doubleheadear in the Eck Tennis Pavilion against Ohio State (11 a.m. EST) and Xavier (4 p.m. EST).