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ND Women’s Tennis: Thompson twins fall short in second grand slam of year

Ryan Kiefer | Monday, November 7, 2005

Catrina and Christian Thompson’s bid to make NCAA history at the ITA National Indoor Championships fell short in the quarterfinal round Friday afternoon.

The twin sisters won the first grand slam of the season, the ITA All-American Championships last month. They were attempting to become the first-ever doubles team to claim the All-American and Indoor Championships in the same year.

The Thompsons were eliminated by the Stanford team of Alice Barnes and Anne Yelsey by an 8-3 score. The No. 7 Cardinal duo avenged a loss in the quarterfinals of the All-American tournament to the top-ranked Irish team. The Cardinal, much like the Irish in the All-Americans, used the quarterfinal win to propel them to the Indoor Championship title.

Irish coach Jay Louderback thought the Stanford team would be tough even before the season started.

“We thought they would be one of the top two teams [along with the Thompsons] in the country,” Louderback said. “They were ranked lower only because they didn’t play together last year. They are a very good team, but we know we didn’t play our best. It’s just too bad that we had to play them so early in these tournaments.”

Barnes and Yelsey played on different doubles teams last year.

Their teams comprised the all-Cardinal title match of the NCAA doubles championship last season. The Thompsons’ loss came following an 8-6 opening round win over a team from Kentucky.

Catrina Thompson also participated in the singles draw of the Indoor Championships, posting a 1-2 record. Thompson lost a hard-fought battle to No. 4 Robin Stephenson of Alabama 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the first round. She came back to split two three-set decisions in the consolation bracket, defeating Stephanie Kusano of California before falling to Yelsey.

Louderback was impressed by Catrina Thompson’s singles play.

“That player from Alabama is very good,” he said. “Catrina played well and had her chances at 4-4 in the third, but couldn’t pull it out. The match [against Yesley] was also a really good match and really tight. Catrina had a very good weekend.”

While the Thompsons took on the field at the National Indoor tournament, the rest of the No. 24 Irish competed at the Midwest Blast hosted by the University of Illinois. The tournament was a simulated dual format, consisting of round robin dual matches against Louisville, Wisconsin and Illinois. While team scores were not kept, individual results counted for ranking purposes.The Irish posted a 27-7 record at the tournament, including 10-2 in doubles.

Four Notre Dame players posted perfect 6-0 records, including senior Kelly Nelson, sophomore Brook Buck and freshmen Katie Potts and Kelcy Tefft.

Assistant Coach Michelle Dasso, who coached the team at the Midwest Blast, was pleased with the effort and singled out Buck as excelling this weekend.

“Brook played extremely well,” she said. “This was an important tournament for her because her confidence was down a little during the fall. We need Brook playing her best for us to do well in the spring.”

Dasso thought things went according to plan on the doubles side.

“We knew our doubles was a strength of our team, and they were solid this weekend,” the coach said. “Kiki [Statsny] and Lauren [Connelly] lost 8-6 to Illinois’ number one team, but they played well in that match. They had their chances up 6-5, and even though they lost it was a good match for them. No one else really challenged us apart from that match.”

Dasso also liked the attitude Tefft and Potts brought to the court this weekend.

“It was important for them to get experience in the dual match format, because that is how the spring will be,” she said. “They were laid-back and relaxed, and that’s the attitude you need to have to succeed.”

The weekend action concluded the fall season for the Irish women, one that was highlighted by the Thompsons’ grand slam title, the first in Notre Dame history.

The Irish have high expectations for the spring with a talented group of freshmen and experience at the top of their line-up.

Louderback knew, however, that there was room for improvement during the winter off-season.

“Each player has a specific area they need to work on individually,” he said. “We’ll do that at the end of the fall here and hopefully we’ll be where we want to be when the spring comes.”