With seven straight wins, the Stanford men’s tennis team is in the midst of its best stretch of play this season. The Cardinal will try to continue that this afternoon in an unusual Monday matchup, hosting the University of San Francisco Dons at Taube Tennis Stadium. Ranked No. 70 in the nation, the Dons should have their hands full as they take on the red-hot Cardinal, currently the ninth-ranked team in the country.
The Dons, led by Norwegian-born sophomore Ola Bakke, have won three of their past four matches, dominating UC-Davis and Montana, squeaking by Gonzaga and falling to Nevada. Every member on the USF roster is either a Californian or an international student, with Oslo, Norway serving as a hotbed for recruitment. Four of the team’s eleven players call the Scandinavian city home.
Upholding a recent trend in college tennis, the Dons, led by head coach Peter Bartlett, have been very proactive in recruiting from a particular international location. Stanford has been a firsthand witness to that tendency this season, facing a number of teams that have featured multiple players from t
he same international area. It seems as if college teams almost monopolize certain regions of the world, laying claim to the top high school players in their region for recruitment purposes. Stanford is one of few teams to feature a very low international presence–or more accurately, none.
The Stanford men are coming off consecutive routs of Oregon and Boise State, beating both schools 6-1. Junior Bradley Klahn, the Cardinal’s top player, has picked up his game as of late, losing just once over the course of his team’s winning streak in both singles and doubles play.
Klahn has been preparing his game–as the whole team has–for the stretch run, culminating in the Pac-10 Championships next weekend in Ojai, Calif. and, after a two-week hiatus, the NCAA Championships. Stanford hosts the national tournament this year, which begins May 19.
Klahn, the defending NCAA singles champion, has played all year with a bulls-eye on his back, weathering the best shots from each team whenever he takes the court. He’s still managed to post an impressive 21-9 overall singles record this year and is only now rounding into his top form.
As head coach John Whitlinger said at the beginning of the season, his goal is always to have the team “prepared to play their best tennis in May.” The team certainly seems to have taken its coach’s words to heart–since spring quarter, the team has yet to lose a dual match.
After hosting the University of San Francisco today, the Cardinal has only two matches remaining in its regular season: No. 36 Brigham Young University will visit tomorrow, and Cal will cross the bay for the traditional Big Smash on Apr. 23.
The Stanford men’s tennis team is trying to stay the course with what it’s been doing–building towards May–and enjoying the ride along the way. With three more matches before the playoffs begin, the team’s focus and mettle will be tested now more than ever.
Stanford and USF square off today at 3:30 p.m. in Taube Tennis Stadium.