W. Tennis: Card advances to rematch in NCAA finals

May 24, 2011, 12:18 a.m.

For the second consecutive year, the Stanford women’s tennis team has made it to the finals of the NCAA Tournament. And for the second consecutive year, the Cardinal’s opponents will be the Florida Gators.

Last night, Stanford took down Baylor 4-1 in the semifinals at Taube Tennis Center to advance to today’s final. The top-seeded Cardinal secured the doubles point thanks to wins of 8-2 on court one and 8-6 on court two. The fifth-seeded Bears tied the score at one when Stanford freshman Kristie Ahn was forced to default her match after only three games of singles, exiting due to a lingering ankle injury.

W. Tennis: Card advances to rematch in NCAA finals
Freshman Nicole Gibbs, along with junior Veronica Li, clinched the doubles point for Stanford en route to a 4-1 win over Baylor in the semifinals. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

From there, it was all Stanford. Despite struggles from its top singles player, senior Hilary Barte, the Cardinal won three singles matches in straight sets to earn the win. Sophomore Stacey Tan was most impressive, winning 6-1, 6-4 on court five to regain the lead for the Cardinal. Junior Veronica Li followed with a 6-4, 6-3 win on court six to give Stanford its third point, and sophomore Mallory Burdette clinched the victory with a 7-5, 6-4 win on court two.

“The win today awesome,” Burdette said. “I feel like it was definitely not a super easy match. A lot of people had close matches, and a lot of matches had us fighting really hard. I was excited to be able to clinch and bring home the win at the end. So I think overall it was a really good performance from us, on singles and in doubles.”

Ahn’s early exit was the only down-note for Stanford, which would have otherwise swept the match. After suffering a minor ankle injury in last month’s Pac-10 Singles Tournament—which she won—Ahn has played through pain and occasionally been scratched from her usual spot in the doubles lineup.

When asked if she thought Ahn would be playing today, Burdette wasn’t optimistic.

“As of right now, no,” she said. “I think we’re going to go forward planning to not have her in doubles or singles.”

Despite her probable absence, though, Burdette thinks the team has enough depth and experience to make up for it and succeed.

“We would all want her out there, but I don’t think it’s going to shake us too much,” she said. “Our doubles team will be the same, and in singles all year, we’ve pretty much had seven players that we moved in and out of the lineup.”

That seventh player is Carolyn McVeigh, a talented senior who has received significant playing time this year, especially after Ahn’s injury.

While Stanford’s lineup might be a little different today, a lot of the storylines from last night’s match will be familiar to Cardinal fans. Yesterday’s match marked the second straight year the Cardinal eliminated the Bears in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Baylor was the No. 1 seed, and No. 8 seed Stanford pulled the upset in the quarterfinals on its way to a national title. To win that title, the Cardinal had to pull out a grueling 4-3 win in the finals when Burdette rallied for a three-set win. Stanford’s opponent in those finals was also Florida, who advanced yesterday with a 4-0 sweep of No. 6 UCLA.

W. Tennis: Card advances to rematch in NCAA finals
Senior Hilary Barte cruised through doubles but faced a challenge in singles. Her teammates picked up the slack, though, as the Cardinal advanced to today's NCAA finals. Stanford will face Florida once again in a rematch of last year's finals thriller. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

Today’s final matchup pits the two best teams in the country against each other. The No. 2-seed Gators are actually ranked ahead of Stanford in the ITA rankings, and their only loss all season was to the Cardinal in the finals of February’s National Team Indoors in Charlottesville, Va. Other than that match, Florida is 30-0, losing multiple points in a dual match just three times. The Cardinal has gone all 28 matches this season without losing more than two points, and Stanford has not lost a dual match since Feb. 26, 2010. That 47-match streak pales in comparison to the Cardinal’s home winning streak, though, which spans 184 matches and over 12 years.

Burdette, who will finish her second straight season with a finals match against the Gators today, said that last year’s ending will make today’s match particularly competitive.

“For both teams, I think we all know each other’s games really well and how we do things,” she said. “We know how we want to go out there and play all those matchups, so it’s a matter of executing.”

Stanford’s streak will be tested this afternoon, when Stanford and Florida clash for the national title. Doubles play begins at 4 p.m. at Taube Tennis Center, with singles play to follow.

 

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