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Redshirt freshman Erinn Thompson and the Virginia women’s basketball team welcome ACC foes Maryland and Virginia Tech for home games this weekend. The Cavaliers will take on the Terps at 8:30 p.m. Friday night in a game that will also be televised on the ACC’s Regional Sports Network. On Sunday, cross-state rival Virginia Tech comes to town for National Women and Girls in Sports Day. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thompson, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to talk about ACC play, her improvement coming off an injury and her career path into sports psychology.

Question: How would you describe where you are as a team right now?
Thompson:
As far as where we are, it’s the ACC season now and that’s really a season within itself. We had high hopes to start with a win, but unfortunately losing is just as much a part of the game as winning. Right now, all we can do is keep on keeping on. We have to stick together, take it and learn as much from failure as we can.

Question: What would you say are the team’s strengths and weaknesses right now?
Thompson:
Our biggest strength is heart. We have so many girls on the team who work so hard, regardless of setbacks. With so many people having that kind of work ethic, that really builds chemistry, which is another one of our strengths. We are athletic and we transition well. As far as weaknesses go, maybe confidence. Being picked 10th in the ACC is a bit striking. I can understand how we sometimes feel iffy in situations of struggle.

Question: How have you personally improved from last year at this time to now?
Thompson:
Last year at this time I was learning how to use crutches! So I feel I have made leaps and bounds. I know how to use crutches – and I’m off of them! Just being on the court, in practice or in a game, that is a big step for me. I never expected to be so severely injured but it happened and for what reason, I don’t know. That will be revealed later in life. But I feel blessed that I am able to put a jersey on instead of dress clothes. Individually, that has been the biggest difference, and I hope to further progress. I am trying to earn minutes. I want to be a part of the team, whether that means preparing them for a game, or directly contributing on the court during a game. I just have to understand my role right now – it’s different than any role I have ever had before. But I do have a role this year and that is the most important thing.

Question: What makes playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference so special?
Thompson:
The ACC is arguably the best league in the country. What makes it special is that you have to compete every night. Anybody can win and anybody can lose. Whether we are playing Duke or Clemson, we have to play. There is no option of taking a possession off. Everybody has to be 100 percent on top of it.

Question: What has been your favorite arena to play other than JPJ?
Thompson:
That’s a tough question. I actually enjoyed the Ohio State arena. It was the old one – St. John Arena – not the new one. It was very historical. Bobby Knight played there! I was talking to my dad before the game – he told me it was a big deal to be walking into a realm of basketball like that. I researched it a little bit. All the people who ran up and down that floor – it’s pretty amazing. I also really look forward to Cameron (Indoor Stadium at Duke). We played there last year and won’t this year. But I’m a North Carolina girl and have practiced and played on that floor many times. It brings back memories.

Question: What is your major?
Thompson:
I did have an interest in journalism but I have really found a stronger interest in pyschology. I would really like to be a sports psychologist and we have a five-year graduate program here for that.

Question: Has that interest come from your injury and having to deal with that?
Thompson:
Yes, definitely, 150 percent. Last year I learned more about the mental aspect of basketball. Sitting all those days and just watching it happen – whether it was someone crumbling internally or finally breaking through – that’s a big part of the game. The mental aspect extends past the floor. A social life, family life, academics – they all feed into it. You can be on the court dribbling a ball but it is nearly impossible to clear your mind of everything.

Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?
Thompson:
This year I took a women in sport class. There were a few of us on the team who were in it and got to really look at the timeline of women’s athletics through history. It was a very informative class and applicable to our lives.

Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Thompson:
I love going shopping and getting my nails done. I have also become a movie guru. I love anything with Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox. I just like hanging out with my friends and I love going to the football games. I love being at UVa.

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