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Women’s Tennis: Thompson returns as assistant coach

Vicky Jacobsen | Thursday, September 5, 2013

 

When head coach Jay Louderback learned that he would need to look for a new assistant coach at the end of last season, he says he had a pretty good idea of whom he wanted for the job.

He immediately thought of former Irish players Catrina and Christian Thompson, twin sisters and doubles partners who were the No. 1 doubles tandem in the country during for parts of the 2005 and 2006. Since the two graduated in 2007, both had become assistant coaches, Catrina at Boise State and Christian at Denver.

“It’s been great to get some of our ex-players to come back as assistants,” Louderback said. “Christian, she had just gone to Denver and was enjoying it, so Catrina was really the first one we were looking at. 

“I called the Boise coach just to see if we could talk to her, and he was really amazing about it. He felt like it was somewhere she’d like to be.”

Catrina Thompson had been teammates with Kelcy Flores, Louderback’s previous assistant coach, while the two were students at Notre Dame. She had heard that Flores and her husband had decided to relocate to Tulsa, and she jumped at the opportunity to return to the program.

“It feels like a homecoming, being back on campus,” Thompson said. “Being back with Jay and then just being back here at Notre Dame, you get chills walking around campus.”

During her collegiate career, Thompson was a three-time ITA All-American for her doubles play, as well as the Big East Championship MVP in 2005 and 2006. She and her sister won the ITA All-American Championship in 2005, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in 2007. She began her career playing in the No. 3 or 4 spot in dual matches, but moved up to the No. 1 position for her junior and senior years.

“She had a big game,” Louderback said. “She had a big serve, a really, really good forehand, volleyed well, but was just also very competitive, a great, great competitor.”

Thompson, who originally hails from Las Vegas, didn’t move straight to coaching after graduation. She played professionally in a series of tournaments, winning one title apiece in 2007 and 2008 (her doubles team also took two wins as challengers in the summer of 2006). Thompson also worked as a tennis instructor at the Sutton East Tennis Club in New York City from 2008 to 2011. 

Thompson began her coaching career as a volunteer assistant for Yale in 2010, which she saw as a way to stay connected to tennis even as her playing career ended.

“I was six years old when I started, and it’s always been a part of my life, so it’s tough to hang up the racket,” Thompson said. “And coaching, what better way to be able to help other players?”

Thompson spent the last two years at Boise State. In 2013, the Broncos went 13-10, and Thompson was named the ITA Mountain Region Assistant Coach of the year.

“Having the two years at Boise State, you feel more comfortable with the on-court coaching experience,” Thompson said. “I think you become more passionate as you get more years under your belt coaching.”

She’ll need that enthusiasm in the coming months. While the team usually has about nine players, this year there are 12 athletes on the roster. That means more individual sessions, more hitting and more split-squad weekends.

“We’ve got quite a few [players] who like to hit extra and do extra work, so with that many we’re really busy,” Louderback said. “And we’re splitting our fall up, where we have some going to one tournament, some to another, so she’ll be traveling with some of them, just her.”

And while Thompson said she thinks the current squad has enough talent to win a conference title, she’s also happy to be back at a program that feels like home. 

“Obviously, I’m biased, but [Louderback] runs one of the best programs in the country, and I really don’t think there’s any coach who cares more about his players,” Thompson said. “So to be back at a program like Notre Dame, a top program, is obviously an amazing opportunity.”

Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu.