Women’s tennis dominate in NCAA quarterfinals

May 23, 2011, 1:48 a.m.

After a nail-biting match against Northwestern in the round of 16, the No. 1 Stanford women’s tennis team rallied to continue its quest for a back-to-back national championship with a victory over Georgia in the quarterfinals Sunday afternoon.

Feeling confident and on its home courts, Stanford (27-0, 8-0 Pac-10) didn’t quite expect the challenge it faced in moving past the relentless 16th-seeded Wildcats (22-8) on Friday night.

Senior Hilary Barte, above, helped lead her team to a close win over Northwestern and a solid victory over Georgia in the on-going NCAA Tournament. (ZACK HOBERG/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford dropped the doubles point for the fourth time all season at the start of the long battle. Though Stanford’s No. 1 doubles pair of senior Hilary Barte and sophomore Mallory Burdette clinched an 8-5 victory in doubles, freshmen Nicole Gibbs and junior Veronica Li dropped their set 5-8 to Northwestern as senior Carolyn McVeigh and sophomore Stacey Tan were also defeated 6-8.

The score continued to flip-flop as Gibbs tied the match at 1-1 with her straight-set victory. However, Tan’s loss to Northwestern’s Kate Turvy on court four put Stanford down 1-2 as the Cardinal found itself in an unfamiliar position. The top of the ladder came on strong, however, as Barte and Burdette captured wins to propel Stanford into the lead for the first time all night. Li and McVeigh were both in very tight matches at the No. 5 and 6 spots as the home crowd watched anxiously.

“It was nerve-wracking,” said Tan, who watched hopefully after her loss. “Northwestern stepped up their game and came out ready to play with nothing to lose. I believed that my teammates would give 100 percent and pull it out.”

That’s exactly what McVeigh did, finally clinching the win for the Cardinal at 1:34 a.m. as she breezed through the third set and defeated the Wildcats’ Stacey Lee 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.  Li and Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova’s match was unfinished after the Cardinal finally secured a victory at 4-2.

Relieved to have survived the potential upset it faced, the Cardinal looked to focus all its attention on yesterday’s quarterfinals match against No. 8 Georgia (19-4), a team that has made 26 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Stanford appeared to have reawakened after its Friday night battle, sweeping the Bulldogs 4-0.

“We were definitely more inspired to go out there and give it all our effort,” Tan said. “We did not want to play hesitantly. There were going to be nerves, but we needed to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all year long: do our job.”

The undefeated Cardinal was not going to let the doubles point slip away again. Barte and Burdette clinched a fast win on court one, 8-1. At one point, however, McVeigh and Tan were down 1-3 before bouncing back to secure the doubles point with their 8-5 win.  Court two’s match was suspended at 7-7.

“I was really motivated, especially after losing my match on Friday, to show the team that I’m going to do my best,” Tan said.  “[McVeigh] and I stuck to our game plan, played solid tennis, and did not make too many errors.”

It was then on to singles as Tan, supported by a fired up crowd, led the charge with a 6-0, 6-0 domination over Georgia’s Cameron Ellis. Barte defeated Chelsey Gullickson at the No. 1 spot, with Gibbs closing up the match by beating Maho Kowase 6-2, 6-3.

The Cardinal keeps rolling as it faces No. 5-seeded Baylor (28-3 — which defeated 4th-seeded North Carolina yesterday — in the semifinals this afternoon. The winner of that match will face the victor of No. 6-seeded UCLA (22-5) and No. 2-seeded Florida (29-1) in the championship on Tuesday afternoon. Stanford has already defeated both North Carolina and Florida this season with victories at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. They have not faced Baylor.

Before learning the result of the North Carolina-Baylor match, Tan said that the Cardinal will focus on itself going into tomorrow’s semifinal.

“I think that we will be ready to face either team,” she said. “No matter the outcome, we will prepare ourselves to play our best.”

The show continues at 4 p.m. Monday at the Taube Tennis Center.

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