Whitlinger Reflects on Loss to Baylor

May 22, 2006

At 11:38 pm Sunday evening, after nearly six hours of battling No. 5 Baylor in the NCAA Quarterfinals, Cardinal head coach John Whitlinger looked at the clock on the wall of the San Francisco Tennis Center, saw the Bears celebrating and realized that his season was over. Stanford had come up short against Baylor, 4-3 in one of the most dramatic and hard-fought matches in recent history.

Seeded 13th in the NCAA Championships, the Cardinal had won its first three matches by 4-0 scores, including beating fourth-seed Duke in the Round of 16. Rain caused play to be moved to the San Francisco Tennis Center Sunday evening, the same venue which Baylor beat the Cardinal 5-1 earlier in the year on Feb. 27

Stanford trailed 1-0 after losing the doubles point, then gained control of the match after victories by Matt Bruch at No. 2, James Pade at No. 3 and KC Corkery at No. 1 put the Cardinal on top 3-1 and on the brink of advancing to the semifinals.

'I knew there was the potential for the match to be a long one,' said Whitlinger. 'We were prepared to stay all night, which we almost did.

'I felt bad for our players that we had to play in San Francisco and did not have the chance to play in front of a full house at home,' said the Cardinal's second-year head coach. 'Not that it would've made a difference in the match -because Baylor certainly earned the victory - but I felt the guys got cheated a bit. There was such a great atmosphere at Stanford on Saturday in our match with Duke,' he said.

After going ahead 3-1, Whitlinger, a veteran of many NCAA Championships, knew not to take anything for granted. 'In college tennis, the momentum shifts are incredible,' he said. 'I felt good after going up 3-1 that we could win a point at the bottom of our lineup.'

But Baylor had other plans. The 2004 NCAA champs came back strong to win at Nos. 4-6 and advance to the semifinals.

'After the doubles point and early on singles, it looked bleak,' said Whitlinger. 'Then, all of the sudden, I heard news that Bruch had won and KC and James were making a comeback and I thought we could win all three points. But then, the roller coaster went down very quickly.

'It was a tough loss, no question. But, as I told the team: This is the NCAA Championship and you will always remember it, both the good and the bad. These are defining moments in their lives and they will never forget what happened here tonight.

Stanford finished the season 18-4, won a share of the Pac-10 championship and narrowly missed playing in the NCAA semifinals.

'I am very proud of this team,' said Whitlinger. 'I think we are a top-five team, much better than our No. 13 ranking. I will always have very fond memories of this team,' said an emotional Whitlinger.

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