Oct. 8, 2004
One day after knocking off the sixth-ranked doubles team in the country, Notre Dame sophomore twins Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.), the seventh-ranked doubles team in college tennis, knocked off the nation’s #1 team Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Riviera/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Women’s All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate grand slam, at the Riviera Tennis Club.
The Irish duo registered an 8-6 victory over Dianne Hollands and Maja Mlakar of Arizona, prevailing in a tight match. The Thompsons broke to go up 5-3, but the Wildcat team responded by breaking serve to keep the contest close. With the score tied 6-6, Hollands and Mlakar won three of the first four points on Catrina Thompson’s serve, but a huge forehand down the line then helped the Irish rally from 15-40 to hold serve and go up 7-6. The Thompsons then broke Arizona’s serve to claim the victory.
With the win, the Thompsons assured themselves a spot in the 16-team field of the second collegiate grand slam event, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, slated for Nov. 4-7 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Up next for the Notre Dame team will be the 11th-ranked team of sophomore Iva Gersic and junior Maja Kovacek from the University of New Mexico, another hot duo. The Lobo squad, comprised of Croatians ranked 41st (Kovacek) and 62nd (Gersic) nationally in singles, downed third-ranked Aibika Kalsarieva and Sarah Foster of Kentucky by an 8-5 score on Friday after topping #8 Michelle DaCosta/Kara Delicata of Michigan in the opening round. Kovacek was 33-8 with a different partner last season, finishing at #5 in the national rankings. The Croatians have paired together for the first time this season, going 5-0 in early action.
The Thompsons and Gersic/Kovacek have faced one common opponent this season: #24 Yanick Dullens/Suzana Maksovic of the University of Denver. The Notre Dame team prevailed 8-4 over the Pioneer duo in the Colorado Invitational, while the Lobos beat Dullens/Maksovic 8-3 in the final of the BYU Invitational.
The victory was the first for an Irish team against the nation’s #1 doubles team since current assistant coach Michelle Dasso and Becky Varnum downed Pepperdine’s Ipek Senoglu and Paola Palencia 8-5 at No. 1 doubles on Feb. 17, 2001, in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
The Thompsons, who came to Notre Dame in 2003 as the top-ranked girls’ 18-and-under doubles team in the United States, improved to 15-6 collegiately in open tournaments and registered their eighth career win against a ranked team. Over their last 11 matches, they have four victories against top-15 foes. Hollands and Mlakar were the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the twins, displacing then-#2 Cristelle Grier and Jessica Rush of Northwestern, who fell in a tiebreaker at the Courtney Tennis Center last April. They are now 5-0 this season – including three wins over top-25 foes – and 27-17 in their collegiate careers.
The Thompson twins became the third Irish doubles team ever to reach the semifinals of a collegiate grand slam event, and they will attempt to be the first Notre Dame duo ever to advance to the title match. The only other Irish team to reach the semis of the All-American Championships was Wendy Crabtree and Lisa Tholen, who were up a set against the top-seeded team in 1993 before losing. Friday also marked the first time that Notre Dame competitors upset the top seed in a collegiate grand slam event in singles or doubles.
The other semifinal will feature a battle between two University of Florida teams, as senior Zerene Reyes and junior Jennifer Magley will take on a pair of freshmen, Whitney Benik and Lolita Frangulyan.
The Las Vegas natives, who were the first all-freshman team in Division I since 1998 to earn a berth in the NCAA Doubles Championship, are making their second appearance in a collegiate grand slam event. In last May’s NCAAs, they reached the round of 16 before falling in three sets.
The All-American Championships, the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and the year-end NCAA Championships are college tennis’ three national championship events. The other leg of the collegiate grand slam, the T. Rowe Price National Clay Court Championships, was discontinued prior to the 2001-02 season. The Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships date back to 1983 and the famous Riviera Tennis Club has played host to the event since 1988 (it also hosted an intercollegiate women’s championship from 1986-88).