2003 Women's Tennis Preview
Jan. 27, 2003
Coming off back-to-back national titles and capturing their fourth championship in six seasons, the 2003 Stanford women's tennis team looks to continue its title run for a third consecutive year. Despite no seniors on this year's squad, the Cardinal plan to be as strong as ever.
Stanford returns five athletes from last season's championship roster, while also welcoming four highly-touted freshmen who have already shown the ability to make an impact in the lineup.
'It is a huge transition year for us,' said head coach Lele Forood, who begins her third year at the held of the Cardinal. 'Although it is a transition year, we are expected to be as solid as ever.'
Forood's first two seasons with the Stanford program have been nearly perfect. With only one loss and two NCAA titles in two seasons, she starts 2003 with the same goal in mind. 'Our number one goal is to win a national championship, no doubt about it,' said Forood. 'I would love to have an individual champion again, but that is secondary to the team title. I have no regard for going undefeated, we just want to be there at the end.'
The Cardinal will have a tough act to follow. The 2001-2002 squad won the national championship in dominate fashion, capping off a 6-0 run in the NCAA Tournament with a 4-1 victory over top-ranked Florida in the title match. Stanford, which won its 12th NCAA Team Championship in the 22-year history of the event, finished the campaign with a 27-1 overall record and dropped only three points in its six NCAA Tournament matches. The Cardinal also picked up their 15th straight Pac-10 Championship by finishing 8-0 in the conference and has not lost a Pac-10 match in eight years for a 71-0 record in that span.
'Clearly it was a great win for us last year,' explained Forood. 'There were some really solid teams and we were just one of them. We had some early season injury problems, but we knew we would be tough down the stretch. We were in good position, especially hosting the event on our courts, and everyone played well at the end.'
With the loss of three-time All-Americans Lauren Kalvaria and Gabriela Lastra and Keiko Tokuda to graduation, the Cardinal will hope to fill the void with juniors Amelia Anderson and Lauren Barnikow. 'We have no seniors on this team and the leadership will have to be earned,' said Forood. 'It will not be quite as obvious this year, but we brought in some talented freshmen and two of them have already made an impact this fall.'
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings agree, as five Cardinal are ranked in the top-105 singles preseason poll, while Stanford's doubles team of Barnikow and sophomore Erin Burdette stand at No. 8 in the rankings. Freshman Alice Barnes leads the way, ranked No. 13 in singles, followed by No. 17 freshman Amber Liu, No. 25 Barnikow, No. 30 Burdette and No. 105 Anderson.
Barnikow returns after a solid sophomore season which she finished 30-11 overall and 19-5 in dual match play. The 2002 ITA singles and doubles All-American and Second Team Pac-10 honoree, teamed up with Burdette as the No. 2 doubles team. The duo finished with a 33-11 overall record and won two matches in the NCAA Tournament before falling in the quarterfinals. Ranked No. 15 in the fall preseason rankings, Barnikow completed the fall season with a 7-5 mark. Barnikow and Burdette were the top doubles team for the Cardinal, finishing 9-2 overall and won the Omni Hotels Northwest Regional Championship.
'Barnikow has a big game and she is capable of some tremendous tennis,' said Forood. 'She has improved a lot over her first two seasons and we are looking for her to be more consistent.'
Anderson enters her junior campaign after notching 14 consecutive singles victories en route to a 23-4 record in dual matches as a sophomore. She posted a 4-0 mark in postseason action, including a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 6 singles in the NCAA Championship match. 'Amelia has been a solid performer over the last two years,' said Forood. 'She has won every singles match in the tournament and we count on her competitiveness and readiness at the end of the season.'
Anderson teamed with sophomore Story Tweedie-Yates to win the 2002 Pac-10 Doubles Invitational Championship and finished with a 11-3 overall mark. She enters the spring with a 3-1 record after advancing in the fourth round of the Omni Hotels Regional in October.
Burdette, one of three sophomores on the roster, was a pleasant surprise for the Cardinal in her rookie season. She finished with a 43-7 overall singles mark (25-1 in duals) and was awarded All-American status. She won her first four matches at the NCAA Singles Championships before falling in the semifinals. Burdette finished the season with an unblemished 19-0 record at the No. 4 singles position, including a 4-0 mark in the NCAA Tournament. She also earned Second Team All-Pac-10 recognition after going 22-2 against conference foes.
'Erin really came in on a roll and established herself by getting to the top-10 singles rankings as a freshman,' said Forood. 'She had a very solid season at No. 4 and topped it off by winning all her matches in the tournament. Erin will play higher for us this year.'
Tweedie-Yates also had a successful first season on The Farm, finishing with a 9-4 overall singles mark (7-1 in duals) in 2002. She and Anderson won the Pac-10 Doubles Invitational Championship and finished 17-7 in doubles play with Keiko Tokuda at No. 3 for most of the season. Tweedie-Yates enters the spring season with a 5-1 singles mark after winning the consolation draw at the Omni Hotels Northwest Regional.
'Story played great down the stretch in doubles last year and now we need her to translate the solid tennis into the singles lineup this year.'
Another sophomore, Kara Guzman, is a returning competitor with potential to challenge for a starting spot. Guzman finished 2002 with a 5-5 singles mark and won her only two dual match contests. This fall she compiled a 3-2 record and advanced to the second rounds of the Saint Mary's ITA Regional and Omni Hotels Northwest Regional. 'We pushed Kara to work hard on her game in the offseason,' said Forood. 'She responded and has come back a better player looking to challenge for a starting spot.'
Four freshmen should also contribute immediately and will provide an element of versatility to the lineup. Alice Barnes and Amber Liu have emerged as the biggest early season surprise for the Cardinal. Liu, who was the top junior in the country in 2001, reached the quarterfinals of the Riviera ITA All-American Championships before withdrawing due to injury. She finished the fall season with a 7-3 mark, including a win at the No. 1 spot against Hawai'i in November.
'Amber has the physical and mental skills to be a dominate player,' said Forood. 'She had some injury problems in the fall, but we look for her to be healthy and a real impact player for us.'
Barnes finished her first collegiate fall season with an impressive 10-2 mark. She advanced to the singles finals of the Omni Hotels Northwest Regional and won the consolation draw at the Omni Hotels Championships in November. Barnes comes to The Farm as a Great Britain National Team member and most recently, advanced to the third round of the 2002 Junior Wimbledon. 'Alice is a great all-around player and student of the game. She is going to be an important part of our team in both singles and doubles, solidifying the lineup.'
Joanna Kao and Jessica Leck are the other two newcomers who could crack the starting lineup later in the season. Koa finished the fall season with a 2-2 mark and teamed up with Leck in doubles to post a 3-1 record. The duo reached the third round of the Omni Hotels Northwest Championships before falling to teammates Barnes and Tweedie-Yates. Leck is a four-year member of the Mission League All-League Team and placed fourth in doubles at the 1999 National Hard Courts Tournament in San Diego.
'Joanna and Jessica both come from Southern California, so they have played top-level competition as juniors,' said Forood. 'Joanna has very solid skills and Jessica is a power player with a big serve and nice forehand.'
The 2003 schedule features plenty of exciting matchups. The Cardinal are scheduled to host Fresno State, LMU, Rice, Pepperdine and William & Mary in non-conference battles and will travel to Las Vegas for a clash with UNLV in March. The team will compete in the National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wis., in early February, and begin Pac-10 play later in the month against California. Florida's Ring Tennis Complex will be the site for this year's NCAA Women's Team Championships, beginning May 15.
'Everyone in the conference is better this year,' said Forood. 'Even if teams have not added impact players, everyone has one more year of experience which makes them better. USC is very strong and Arizona State has a solid team. Cal and UCLA are both right there as well and Washington is still a very deep team.'
'We just want to be there in the end. We want to be playing on Sunday in Gainesville and take our chances then.'