In one of its final Pac-10 matches, the top-ranked Stanford women’s tennis team used its depth to defeat a competitive Washington squad and send its three outstanding seniors out with one last regular-season, home-match win. The Cardinal (21-0, 7-0 Pac-10) moved past the Huskies (12-10, 2-6) easily, wining 5-2.
The day before, the Cardinal defeated No. 71 Fresno State (6-11, 3-0 WAC), 7-0, for its 11th shutout of the year. Stanford is on a 40-match winning streak dating back to February of last year. The team created momentum early by winning the doubles point and then proceeded to breeze through the singles as highlighted by Nicole Gibbs’ 6-0, 6-0 win over Bianca Modoc. Gibbs is now ranked 12th in the nation. Only Kristie Ahn had a tough match, eventually winning 4-6, 7-6(6), 1-0(3).
“Overall the team did really well,” Ahn said. “Conditions were pretty tough, because it was really windy. For me, I was hurting a little bit but played well and eventually got the win.”
Saturday was Senior Day for the three graduating seniors: Hilary Barte, Carolyn McVeigh and Jennifer Yen. The trio will graduate as NCAA champions and as leaders of one of the most dominant Stanford teams in recent memory.
“The day was emotional for me especially,” Barte said. “I started crying a little bit…actually a lot. The day just had a different air about it. I felt so content. To be able to reflect on my four years at Stanford and have my team there, my parents there, it meant a lot. It was a great experience.”
A battle took place at the No. 1 spot between Barte and Denise Dy, the 5th-ranked player in the country. Barte took Dy to two tiebreakers, losing 7-6(6), 7-6(6). The match hinged on only a few points, with missed opportunities on both sides to take the lead and keep it.
“The most frustrating part for me was that there were moments in both sets when I could have pulled away and blown the match open, and I wasn’t able to convert,” Barte said. “Those were big momentum shifts.”
“In the first set, I was serving up 3-1, 3-0 and lost that game,” Barte continued. “She kind of flipped the momentum on that one. That’s not to say I didn’t have my chances towards the end of the set, but it was obviously really frustrating. I think I was up 6-4 in the first tiebreaker. In the second, I think I was up 6-6. Just a few points here and there. As heartbreaking as it was, I feel happy about it. I’m excited to just keep learning and take lessons from it and just be better. I think it’s going to be a big lesson for me.”
This was only one of two matches dropped on the day. Sophomore Mallory Burdette, playing at the No. 2 spot, lost to Venise Chan, ranked 20th in the nation, 6-7(5), 6-4, 1-0(8). Burdette looked to be struggling early on during her match Friday as well, although she eventually broke through to dominate that match 6-3, 6-2.
By Washington’s standards, it was an impressive day. Its two best players recorded wins over top-25 players on the road and capped off a 20-1 regular season record between the two of them. Washington as a team only ended up 12-10, but eight of those losses came against top-20 teams. They also finished 2-6 in Pac-10 play, struggling in one of the most competitive leagues in the nation.
For Stanford, beating this squad was a promising sign that the team has returned to form for the postseason. The Cardinal has shown it can beat tough opponents so far this season even when losing a match or two.
“I wasn’t here last year, but I heard [the Huskies] were a pretty tough match,” Ahn said. “They have Denise and Venise, who are really good players. We still sent the message that even though our top two players lost, teams have to do a lot to beat us.”
The Cardinal returns to action this upcoming weekend, including its last regular season match at Cal on April 16 at noon.