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ND WOMEN’S TENNIS: Thompson twins dominate

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One delivers the ball with a tremendous forehand and devastating serve. The other sets the pace with consistent shot selection and a cool-under-pressure attitude. Separate they are strong, but when put together, they create one of the most formidable women’s collegiate doubles pairs in the nation.

Catrina Thompson carries the killer instinct, while Christian Thompson forces her opponent to make the mistake. The two Irish women’s tennis players used both styles of play to earn All-American honors last year as sophomores and garner a No. 1 doubles ranking mid-season, finishing the season ranked No. 5.

The twins put together a 28-7 record in dual and open meets for 2004-05, placing them at 50-24 over their two-year career. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association awarded the sisters the prestigious All-American label for finishing in the top ten of the ITA final doubles rankings and gaining a berth in the NCAA doubles championship.

“It was exciting,” Christian said. “We had a great year and played really well before struggling at the end. When we found out, we called our parents, our coach from back home, our friends. It was shocking at first.”

The Thompsons were not born with a racket in hand. Neither parent played the game, so the twins didn’t get their first experience until they attended a free clinic down the road from their home in Las Vegas. The coach of the clinic recognized the talent inside of the pair and began to work with them.

They started playing competitively around the age of eight in local tournaments before moving on to circuit and sectional tournaments in the Nevada region. Their mixed style dominated all opponents, and by the time they were 12, it was on to the national level.

“We qualified for the Challenge Cup at 12, it was the nationals for our age,” Christian said. “Every age group after that, under-14’s, under-16’s, under-18’s we went to the nationals. We won seven national doubles titles.”

Irish coach Jay Louderback watched their reputation and records grow. He observed all the national titles and was impressed with their natural ability.

“A big thing with them was their athletic ability – even at 16 it was amazing to see what good athletes they were,” Louderback said.

When the time came to move to the collegiate level, the sisters were more than ready – as was Louderback – to make sure they would don the blue and gold. He made a house visit and caught their interest. An older cousin that previously attended Notre Dame influenced their decision, along with a visit where they fell in love with campus and the team.

The rest is history, but a lot more will be made in the next two years as the twins now have the experience needed to excel at the collegiate level, in addition to the natural connection the two share when it comes to playing on the same court.

“They have played together for so long, they know exactly what each other will do,” Louderback said.

That innate ability, which many doubles pairings do not possess, is clearly a step up on the competition, and Catrina and Christian have put in the effort to make sure that strength is utilized.

“We have been practicing hard,” Christian said. “We came back to school for the summer and did a lot of work with our trainer. So far, we have been trying to hit twice a day, and it’s really working out.”

Although there have been brief spells where the twins have been forced to play with a different partner – Christian missed several matches in ’04 with knee problems – they wish to continue their dominance together.

“When Catrina hits the ball, I know what she is going to do, so I can position myself and be in the right spot for the ball,” Christian said.