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Thompsons live their dreams at ITA Championships

Joe Meixell | Friday, October 15, 2004

Make no mistake – sophomores Catrina and Christian Thompson are doers, not dreamers.

While doubles teams across the country aspire to compete in championship tournaments, the No. 7 Thompsons are living their dreams.

The twins recently enjoyed their share of success at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women’s All-American Championships last weekend. The duo was the first Irish team ever to reach the doubles final of a grand slam event.

En route to the finals, the Thompsons upset the No. 6, No. 1 and No. 11 teams. Although they fell just short of a grand slam championship title, the twins secured a place in the National Intercollegiate Indoor Doubles Championships Nov. 4 and 5.

“It was really dissapointing losing,” Catrina Thompson said. “It bugged me all week. But we know we’ll have another opportunity to win and prove ourselves.”

In the days leading up to the finals, the pair proved that with a little confidence, there isn’t anyone they can’t beat-including the country’s top ranked team.

University of Alabama’s No. 6 Ashley Bentley and Robin Stephenson – who are ranked Nos. 49 and 16 in singles, respectively – were the first challenge for the Thompsons. After the twins trailed 4-3, Christian Thompson spearheaded the team’s comeback, not missing a first serve in six attempts to even the score and jumpstart a scoring run. Bentley and Stephenson, who were undefeated this season, fell 8-4 to the twins.

The next day, the Thompsons overpowered University of Arizona’s No. 1 Dianne Hollands and Maja Mlakar in a tight 8-6 victory. After trailing 5-3, Hollands and Mlakar refused to surrender a win, tying the score at 6-6. However, their efforts proved to be futile as the Irish rallied and secured the victory as they broke Arizona’s serve.

Coach Jay Louderback attributes the twins’ complimentary playing style for their upset against Arizona.

“Catrina has really improved her serve and hits the ball with a lot of speed and pace. She’s becoming a weapon for the team,” Louderback said. “And Christian has been a really consistent player. She’s getting better at finishing off the point instead of keeping the ball in volley.”

Showcasing their strengths against University of New Mexico’s No. 11 Maja Kovacek and Iva Gersic, the Thompsons collected their third win of the tournament 9-8 (7-5) in a closely contested match.

“Every point was a great point,” Louderback said. It was fun to see them play some of the top players in the country. They look forward to playing the best players they can.”

University of Florida’s Whitney Benik and Lolita Frangulyan handed the Thompsons their only loss of the tournament in the finals 8-3. Christian Thompson said that the prestige of the title match – and the pressure that came with it – ultimately proved to be the twins’ Achilles heel.

“When you get nervous, you don’t move your feet as well,” Christian Thompson said. “A win would’ve been sweeter at the tournament, but that match helped us realize what we need to improve on.”

Catrina Thompson agreed.

“It was just mentally frustrating because we had opportunities to get back into it, but we didn’t capitalize,” Catrina Thompson said. “It was hard not winning because they had all of the trophies out before the match. We really wanted a gold one instead of silver.”

Despite the loss, Louderback praised the twins’ performance, describing the tournament as a starting point for the season.

“They will probably be ranked very high this season because of their play in the All-American tournament,” Louderback said. “They will have to keep that high level of play because everyone will be out to beat them.”