W. Tennis: Card starts NCAAs with two shutouts

May 17, 2011, 12:05 a.m.

The 2011 NCAA Championships began brilliantly for the defending national champion Stanford women’s tennis team, which recorded two shutouts to make it to the second weekend of the tournament. The Cardinal overwhelmed University of Illinois-Chicago on Saturday before defeating No. 27 Pepperdine on Sunday.

W. Tennis: Card starts NCAAs with two shutouts
Freshman Nicole Gibbs won both her singles matches over the weekend as the No. 1 Stanford women's tennis team shut out both Illinois-Chicago and No. 27 Pepperdine to reach the third round of the NCAA Tournament. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

This year marks the 30th consecutive season Stanford has made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford is undefeated on the year with 24 wins, including an 8-0 record in Pac-10 play.

The result against Illinois-Chicago on Saturday was typical of the Cardinal’s performance all season, but the players that achieved it were not. Stanford played without two of its top players, sophomore Stacey Tan and freshman Kristie Ahn. Both were resting minor injuries.

For doubles, Ahn’s partner, freshman Nicole Gibbs, paired up with junior Veronica Li. In singles, senior Jennifer Yen replaced Tan at the sixth spot. Gibbs and Li proved a dominating duo, recording an 8-0 win at the second spot. Stanford won the doubles point when senior Hilary Barte and sophomore Mallory Burdette recorded an 8-1 win at the top spot.

“[Burdette] played probably the best doubles I’ve ever seen her play with me,” Barte said.

Head coach Lele Forood talked about what in Burdette’s play has made her better recently.

“She’s hitting touch shots and tough volleys,” Forood said. “She’s hitting better overheads, and her game is coming together. She’s doing more things well on the doubles court. She’s becoming an even more versatile doubles player.”

No. 18 Nicole Gibbs lost just one game on the way to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ilinca Cristescu. Second off the court was senior Carolyn McVeigh, defeating Jana Knoppe 6-2, 6-1. The clincher came at the top spot thanks to Barte. Ranked third in the nation, Barte received a fight from her opponent, Mariya Kovaleva. Barte won just one game in the first set, but responded by winning 12 games in a row for a 1-6, 6-0, 6-0 victory.

“I don’t know what was happening [in singles],” Barte said. “I was kind of low energy, and my concentration was all over the place. After I lost the first set, she kind of settled down, and I just got into my grove. It was my first match in a while. It was nice to play three sets though, as weird as that sounds. It was nice to have a mental performance like that.”

Sunday’s fight against Pepperdine proved to be a tougher contest, but Stanford had Tan back in the lineup to help out. Tan, pairing up with McVeigh, won her doubles match 8-5 on court three. For the second day in a row, Barte and Burdette played well at the top spot to win 8-5 and clinch the doubles point.

Li won Stanford’s next point when she walked off the court at the fifth spot with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Megan Moore. Barte earned her team-leading fourth point of the weekend with a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Arianna Colffer to put the Cardinal one point away from the second weekend. The win came when Gibbs, recording her second singles victory on the weekend, defeated Ale Granillo 6-2, 6-3.

“The thing with Nicole is that she’s become kind of automatic this year,” Forood said. “She just went out and did what she does, which is dominate her opponents. She really gets after it, gets on top of her opponents early and gets the win. She usually gets off the court as one of the first few matches, if not the first. She’s doing an outstanding job of going out and dominating her position.”

Stanford is back in action Friday at 6 p.m. against Northwestern in the round of 16.

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