Oct. 7, 2004
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – 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 #6 team 8-4 in Thursday’s opening round of the Riviera/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Women’s All-American Championships, the first leg of the collegiate grand slam. The sisters, the first Irish doubles team to win a match in the main draw of the event since 1993, will next face the #1 team in Division I in Friday’s quarterfinals at the Riviera Tennis Club.
The Notre Dame team won five straight games to rally from a 4-3 deficit in defeating a pair of juniors from the University of Alabama, Ashley Bentley and Robin Stephenson. The Crimson Tide team, comprised of players ranked #16 (Stephenson) and #49 (Bentley) nationally in singles, had been unbeaten this season following a 2003-04 campaign in which they were 23-9 and finished ranked 24th.
“The Thompsons played really well today,” said Notre Dame head coach Jay Louderback of his doubles team. “They are really playing big-time tennis. They can play with anybody the way they are playing right now. It was really fun to watch them.”
The twins got off to a strong start, using consistency to win the first three games in rapid fashion. Alabama took advantage of a bad service game by the Irish to begin a rally that would consist of four consecutive games ending in the Tide’s column. Trailing 4-3, Christian Thompson found a groove with her serve, not missing a first serve in six attempts in the game in holding to even the score and begin the run that would end with the Irish prevailing.
Up next for the Irish pair will be an even bigger challenge, as they will take on Dianne Hollands and Maja Mlakar of Arizona at 2:30 p.m. (PDT). The Wildcat team saved match points in rallying from a 7-6 deficit to win its first-round match in a tiebreaker against the 10th-ranked team in the nation, from Harvard. Hollands and Mlakar are the top seeds in the tournament after being ranked #1 in the preseason edition of the ITA national rankings. They are 2-1 this season after finishing 2003-04 with a 19-8 mark and ranked fifth in Division I. Hollands, ranked seventh, also is still alive in the main draw of singles in the All-American Championships.
The winner of that match will move on to the semifinals and simultaneously assure themselves a berth in the second collegiate grand slam event of the season, the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, slated for Nov. 4-7 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Friday’s winner will take on either #3 Sarah Foster/Aibika Kalsarieva of Kentucky or #11 Iva Gersic/Maja Kovacek of New Mexico.
Catrina and Christian Thompson became just the second Notre Dame team ever to win a match in the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships. Wendy Crabtree and Lisa Tholen, the first Irish doubles team ever to compete in the event, won a pair of contests in 1993, downing teams from BYU and South Carolina before losing in three sets against the top-seeded pair of Keirsten Alley and Pam Nelson from California. This year marks the first time since 2000 – and sixth time overall – that an Irish team is competing in the main draw of the tournament.
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 14-6 collegiately in open tournaments and registered their seventh career win against a ranked team. It was the second time in their last 10 matches that they knocked off a top-10 foe, as the twins’ career-best victory was a 9-8 (7-5) victory against then-#2 Cristelle Grier/Jessica Rush of Northwestern at No. 1 doubles on April 15. They are now 4-0 this season – including two wins over top-25 foes – and 26-17 in their collegiate careers.
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).