After two weeks off for final exams, the Stanford women’s tennis team (17-0, 4-0 Pac-10) returned to face four teams in seven days. Beginning with matches against No. 71 Utah and No. 30 Pepperdine, the Cardinal then recorded two convincing wins on the road against quality opponents–No. 8 UCLA and No. 13 USC–to remain undefeated for the season.
Keeping fresh for each match proved essential.
“The most important thing is to make sure you’re relaxed when you’re not on the court,” said senior Hilary Barte. “Kick your feet up, make sure you do whatever makes you feel loose or comfortable.”
The first few matches were marred by repeated rain in the San Francisco area. Against Utah (5-8, 0-0), Stanford swept the singles before both teams decided not to play doubles. All six players recorded straight set wins for the 6-0 decision.
“That first Utah match was such a struggle for me, but I think everyone did well,” Barte said. “For me, it was extra tough. I had hurt my back and then I got really sick during finals. I was basically out for 2-3 weeks. [Coach] Lele [Forood] said it though–‘We got 20 percent better each day we played on spring break.’”
The Cardinal then traveled to Southern California for a three-game road trip. Again, the team couldn’t escape the rain while playing Pepperdine (7-6). Every singles player won her first set before the match was delayed a day due to rain. Upon resuming play, only Kristie Ahn and Stacey Tan were forced to go to three sets. Veronica Li recorded a double shutout victory, 6-0, 6-0 over her opponent, highlighting the day. Stanford swept the doubles after that.
“Pepperdine is loud and always really emotional at home, so that adds to the competition,” described Barte.
An anticipated matchup with a tough and highly ranked UCLA squad (11-5, 1-1) was next. UCLA delivered Stanford a one-sided 6-1 loss last season that helped motivate the team for its championship run. The team didn’t want to repeat that loss this year.
Stanford gained momentum early with three convincing wins in doubles. The nation’s second-ranked team of Barte and Mallory Burdette defeated the nation’s No. 17 team of Dolehide/Remynse, 9-7, while the freshman duo of Ahn and Nicole Gibbs defeated the No. 16 team of Hickey/Jones, 9-8 (5), in a tiebreaker. In singles, Stanford’s only loss came at the No. 6 spot, when Maya Johansson defeated Li in three sets, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, for UCLA’s only point on the day.
“The scoreboard doesn’t show it, but UCLA was a pretty tough match,” Barte said. “We almost lost the doubles point, but we hung tough and grinded it out. That’s the most impressive part, that none of us were playing our best tennis, but we all fought and found a way to get it done.”
With one rival dispatched, the team only had No. 13 USC separating it from a sweep of its first non-tournament road trip of the season. The sole lead in the Pac-10 standings was also at stake, as UCLA had edged Berkeley 4-3 for its first loss in league play earlier that day.
Despite the Cardinal’s top doubles team getting upset 8-5, Stanford took wins at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles to earn the first point. Now up 1-0, the two teams went into singles. At the top of the lineup was a matchup of the nation’s top-ranked player, Maria Sanchez of USC, versus the nation’s second-ranked player, Stanford’s Barte. Sanchez edged Barte, 6-3, 6-3, to earn USC’s only point on the day.
Gibbs closed her match out in a tiebreaker in the second set for the 6-3, 7-6 (3) win. Ahn lost her first set 4-6 and won her second set 6-0 before her opponent retired with an injury. Carolyn McVeigh, playing at the No. 6 spot instead of Li, won her match, 4-6, 7-5, 1-0 (6), in the third-set tiebreaker and was last off the courts.
Stanford returns home next weekend to continue Pac-10 play against Arizona State on Friday and Arizona on Saturday.