W. Tennis: Sharpshooters

March 9, 2011, 1:47 a.m.

For those watching Stanford’s 5-2 victory over Cal last Saturday, some of the finest strokes in collegiate tennis were on display. With four players ranked in the top 25, Stanford has a collection of players who have honed a few shots that stand out in the minds of the fans.

To see Stanford’s number one player senior Hilary Barte hit a forehand is to watch a motion so natural it garners little attention. What does raise the eyebrows of spectators, though, is how hard that ball comes off the racket and how perfectly placed her shots are. Her ability to add variety to her shot allows her to control points when given the chance to use her forehand.

“That’s one of the strengths of my forehand,” said Barte. “I can loop it. I can hit it completely flat and hard. I can hit it heavy. Anything. My basic rally shot is a heavy, flat ball–a line drive that dips at the end.”

W. Tennis: Sharpshooters
Senior Hilary Barte, above, is known for the strength and versatility of her forehand. (ZACK HOBERG/The Stanford Daily)

She credits her uncle, a lefty like Barte, with first guiding her through the process of learning a left-handed forehand. When she felt like her shot was getting pulled in different directions, she had her father there to help.

“Coaches are always trying to change it and [Dad] said ‘just stick with your natural shot,’” Barte said.

Barte has one memory from last season that stands out in her mind as a moment her forehand proved invaluable.

“Against Baylor last year in the quarters of NCAAs, it was match point and the girl was serving at 15-40,” Barte said. “I hit a backhand return and she had a good first ball back to my forehand. I was forced to hit a running forehand and I remember thinking ‘I’m just going to hit this really hard.’ I hit the cleanest forehand I can remember and it felt so good. It was not returnable, basically, and clinched the match to send us to the semis.”

On the opposite side for tennis players is the backhand–and when one wants to see backhands, one watches senior Jennifer Yen. The only player on the team with a one-handed backhand, she has mastered her shot to allow greater variety and a heavier shot than she had before with a traditional, two-handed hit.

“With a one-hander, you can extend more,” said Yen. “With your left hand on your racquet, you’re limited by how far you can extend it. With one hand, you can go farther out in front. It’s natural and easy for me now. I can hit harder with a one-hander.”

Her switch from a two-handed backhand to a one-handed version came about in a rather unusual way–not because of the typical, technical reasoning.

“I started out with a two-handed backhand when I first started playing tennis,” Yen said. “That’s what everyone did. But when I was 13, a couple of the kids that I played with had one-handers. I thought it would be so cool to hit it.”

From the baseline to the net, senior Carolyn McVeigh is another player that wows spectators with her shots. Her consistent doubles success with junior Veronica Li at the No. 3 spot has come about largely because of McVeigh’s quick hands and angled volleys.

“It’s a pretty integral part of my game, especially in doubles,” McVeigh said. “I try to move forward into the first half of the court as often and as early in the point as I can to put pressure on our opponent. I like to serve and volley most of the time because I trust in my ability to make volleys.”

Here at Stanford, she has thrived under the expert tutelage of Head Coach Lele Forood, a former doubles specialist and an expert on volley techniques.

“Lele is one of the best coaches at volleying that you can come across, and I try to work with her as much as I can,” McVeigh said. “Lele, being a professional player and a doubles specialist, is most able to help me with my form on my volleys and my strategy.”

Barte, Yen and McVeigh will join the rest of the team for its next match, against Utah on March 21 at Taube Tennis Stadium.

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