Nation’s #1 tennis is KCHS Lady Irish

The 2022-23 Knoxville Catholic Lady Irish tennis team, two-time defending TSSAA Division II-AA state champions in 2021 and 2022 — unbeaten both seasons — is ranked No. 1 in the nation by the global tennis player rating system, Universal Tennis Rating.

Led by Maeve Thornton, a senior and Furman University signee ranked No. 13 nationally who is a two-time TSSAA Division II-AA singles state champ, other top Lady Irish feature Eleni Liakonis (junior) and Lillie Murphy (sophomore), who combined to capture the Division II-AA doubles state title last spring.

Other key players are Gigi Sompayrac (senior), Marianna Hurley (junior), Pauline Schneiter (sophomore) and Karenna Thurman (sophomore).

“We are very honored to be ranked No. 1 according to the UTR ratings,” said KCHS head coach Rusty Morris, whose assistants are Karen Lorino, Alecia Rojas-Haub and Jacob Lorino.

“I think it is great for the girls to get recognition. The girls on the team work so hard year round on their tennis game, and tennis is a sport where there is very little recognition.”

Also helping mold these girls into top performers “are pros like Dana Forsyth, Derek Stultz and John Gompert from Cedar Bluff Racquet Club, where I’m the director of tennis,” said Morris, named Tennessee Tennis Professional of the Year in 2008. “Also pros from other clubs in town, such as David Thornton (Maeve’s father) who have developed these players. The close proximity of Catholic to Cedar Bluff Racquet Club helps. We also have a great support staff in the parents of the players who help encourage the players.

“I would also like to add that the Catholic administration is a reason for the teams success,” he added. “President Dickie Sompayrac, athletic director Jason Surlas and admissions (director) Joni Punch have all of been of great service to the student athletes.”