W. Tennis: Card individuals try for Pac-10 title

April 28, 2011, 12:10 a.m.

Having just wrapped up a flawless season with an 8-4 victory over the USTA Junior National All-Star Team, the Stanford women’s tennis team travels to Ojai, Calif., today to participate in the Pac-10 Championships this weekend. The Cardinal (23-0, 8-0 Pac-10) will retain its No. 1 ranking and its Pac-10 title regardless of the results of this tournament, as players will be competing individually. The event should provide the women with another opportunity to focus on their individual games before the NCAA Tournament rolls around at the end of May.

W. Tennis: Card individuals try for Pac-10 title
Veronica Li, above, and other Stanford women's tennis players will try to win individual Pac-10 championship this weekend in Ojai, Calif. (KYLE ANDERSON/The Stanford Daily).

Stanford will be sending a sizeable contingent to Ojai, including freshmen Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs, sophomores Mallory Burdette and Stacey Tan and junior Veronica Li in the singles main draw. Stanford also has two doubles teams in the main draw, including Ahn/Gibbs and a pairing of Tan and senior Carolyn McVeigh. The Invitational division will include freshmen Elizabeth Ecker and Amelia Herring, sophomore Natalie Dillon and McVeigh in singles. In Invitational doubles, Stanford will send Burdette/Dillon and Herring/Li.

As a rookie, Ahn is looking forward to playing in Pac-10 individuals, her first such tournament as a Stanford student-athlete.

“I’m excited to take a break from duals and focus on some individual matches, which will most definitely prepare me for the NCAA individual event that follows the team event,” Ahn said. “Any match under the belt before NCAAs will be beneficial—a chance to compete and get back into battle mode.”

The Pac-10 Championships will occur at the same time and place as other tournaments for other age groups. The Ojai Tennis Tournament is celebrating its 111th year and welcomes many of the nation’s elite to its courts.

Ahn will be facing UCLA’s Pamela Montez—whom she defeated 6-4, 6-4 on March 25—in the first round of singles play Thursday. Doubles matches are set to begin on Friday.

“Because it’s an individual tournament, there’s always the possibility that you will play against a fellow teammate, but it tends to be a few rounds in as opposed to a first-round grind,” Ahn said.

One teammate that Ahn will definitely not be competing against is senior Hilary Barte, Stanford’s No. 1 player, who will be sitting this tournament out.

“Yeah, her ranking is safe, and she’s had an awesome season,” Ahn said. “She’s always ready to compete, and I’m sure she would have loved to play Ojai one last time, but I think the smarter decision for her was to sit this one out.”

Barte, who is individually ranked No. 3 in the country, advanced to the semifinals of the Pac-10 Championships last year as a singles player and captured the doubles title with then-partner Lindsay Burdette, who graduated in 2010. As Ahn explained, Barte plans on resting up for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, in which the Cardinal will be facing the nation’s top programs as a team.

The Pac-10 draw will be particularly tough this year, as Ahn attests.

“One of the country’s best, Maria Sanchez of USC, is playing, which will definitely put us to the test,” she said.

Sanchez is currently ranked as the nation’s No. 2 singles player.

Practices have been flexible leading up to the tournament, allowing individuals to work on areas that need refinement.

“Practices have been focused to playing at Ojai; whatever we feel like we need to work on, we can just go ahead and ask each other or the coaches for help,” Ahn said. “We’re trying to fine-tune our games for the postseason, just doing everything necessary to get ready for NCAAs.”

The team believes Stanford is finishing its season with a lot of confidence.

“Our team has developed a winning attitude and I think that it’s very apparent when we take the court,” Ahn said. “Pac-10 individuals will be a great opportunity to make one last leap in my confidence before NCAAs roll around.”

Ecker echoed that sentiment.

“Ojai should be a really good way to get us ready and in a good frame of mind for NCAAS,” she said.

Ecker, who has never played the Pac-10 individuals at Ojai before, has gotten help in preparing for the tournament from her teammates.

“The Pac-10 Championship is known for its fun, slightly more laid-back atmosphere. We are all so excited to compete, but it can’t hurt and can only help your ranking and game going into NCAAs.”

The Stanford women begin postseason play at 8 a.m. today at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club.


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