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Dan Tapetillo | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

For the first time in the program’s history, the Irish have claimed the No. 1 national ranking in women’s doubles.

Sophomores Catrina and Christian Thompson overtook the former No. 1 doubles team of Cristelle Grier and Audra Cohen from Northwestern after the Wildcats duo lost twice this month, dropping them to No. 2 in the nation.

“I knew it was going to be tough to surpass the No. 1 team,” Christian Thompson said. “But I knew we had to go out to every match with confidence in order to have a great season.”

The Thompsons were last ranked No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association national doubles rankings, but have gone 8-0 this spring to improve to 16-2 on the season. The Thompsons hold an 11-1 record against nationally-ranked teams, including six victories against top-15 opponents.

“They’ve worked so hard for so long, and they have done a great job of communicating together,” Irish coach Jay Louderback said. “It’s been great seeing them do so well.”

Last season, the twins finished with a record of 22-17 to become the first all-freshman doubles team from any school since 1998 to earn a spot in the NCAA Doubles Championship.

This season, the Thompsons began the year at No. 7 in the preseason ITA rankings, released in the fall. They finished the fall season with an 8-2 record and became the first Irish team to reach the title match of a collegiate grand-slam event and the only team to reach the semi-finals in the only two grand-slams held in the fall.

“The All-Americans [collegiate grand-slam] was the turning point for this season,” Catrina Thompson said. “We beat the No. 1 team there, and that helped us feel like we could compete against the top teams.”

Prior to this season, the highest national ranking for a doubles team from Notre Dame was No. 5 by current assistant coach Michelle Dasso and Becky Varnum during the 2000-01 season.

“It has been great for our program to have them in doubles because it helps our other doubles teams practice harder and it makes them better,” Louderback said. “But they’ve also been playing really well in singles.”

In addition to her doubles ranking, Catrina Thompson earned a career-high ranking in singles as well. She moved up 37 spots to No. 32 in the country.

“She has played very well for us,” Louderback said. “She plays much more patient, she has a lot of power and a big forehand.”

Catrina Thompson holds an 11-4 record this season at the No. 1 position for the Irish, with wins over No. 27 Courtney Bergman of Harvard and No. 26 Aniela Mojzis of North Carolina this month.

The only other Irish player to be nationally ranked is freshman Brook Buck, who moved up 25 spots to earn a career-high ranking at No. 60. Buck is 15-6 this season and holds a 5-3 record against ranked opponents at the No. 2 position for the Irish.

Louderback is also pleased with his players’ performance off the court.

“I’m not only proud of our program’s talent, but the fact that we have great kids,” he said. “That is what you need for a great program.”