NCAA Championships Round of 16: No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 Clemson:<BR>What You Need To Know

May 13, 2008

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NCAA Championships Tournament Central

No. 4 Stanford Cardinal (21-4, 7-1 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 13 Clemson Tigers (17-9, 8-3 ACC)

  • NCAA Women's Tennis Championships - Round of 16
  • Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 7 a.m. PT
  • Michael D. Case Tennis Center - Tulsa, OK

    In overcast and humid Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the University of Tulsa will serve as the host site for this year's NCAA Championships. We are down to 16 teams on both the men's and women's side, with the team portion of the championships running through Tuesday, May 20, before the individual tourney starts Wednesday, May 21. Windy weather and sudden thunderstorms are always a concern in these parts, and that's the forecast over the next couple days leading into warmer weather for the weekend.

    The NCAA Women's Championships are back in the state of Oklahoma for the first time since 1985, when Oklahoma City last rolled out the welcome mat. Traditional host sites such as Stanford, Calif., Athens, Ga., and Gainesville, Fla., have all hosted the tourney at least four times since then. But the University of Tulsa gets the honor this year, showcasing one of the top facilities in the country in the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. The facility opened its doors for the NCAA men's championships in 2004, three years after its official dedication in 2001.

    With little effort. Stanford advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for the 23rd straight year after cruising through its first two tournament matches at home last weekend. The Cardinal blanked unranked Boston University 4-0 in the opening round before defeating No. 31 Texas A&M 4-1 the next day. Stanford, which has won 24 of its last 25 postseason matches, is playing its best tennis of the season having won nine in a row and 15 of its last 16 contests since the calendar flipped to March. Stanford reached the postseason in the same method it has over the last 21 seasons- claiming the Pac-10's automatic bid after winning the regular season title. This year, however, the Cardinal had to share the hardware with UCLA.

    Ranked No. 13 and the tournament's No. 13 seed, Clemson (17-9, 8-3 ACC) punched its ticket to the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth time in five seasons. The Tigers have been scorching down the stretch, having won 12 consecutive matches with their last loss coming back on Mar. 22. Clemson hosted first and second action last weekend as well and handled Winthrop 4-0 before taking down No. 19 Michigan 4-1. Clemson is 3-3 on neutral courts so far this year, with all three of those victories coming at the ACC Tournament last month. That was the Tigers' first conference title since 2004. Not bad for a squad that dropped nine of its next 11 matches following a 3-0 start. Clemson is led by head coach Nancy Harris, in her 11th year at the helm.

    One would be hard-pressed to find a better matchup in the round of 16- let alone the entire team tournament- than what awaits at the No. 1 spot of the lineup between Clemson sophomore Ani Mijacika (ranked No. 2 nationally) and Stanford freshman Hilary Barte (ranked No. 3 nationally). The imposing 5-10 Mijacika gets it done with an impressive shot-making arsenal while the 5-4 lefty Barte dominates opponents with where-did-that-come-from power. Mijacika is 28-6 overall and has been ranked among the nation's top-four since January. Barte is 28-6 overall and is unbeaten in 18 matches at the No. 1 spot since taking over that position back on Feb. 22. It's a no-brainer.

    Odds are Stanford's No. 3 duo of senior Celia Durkin and freshman Carolyn McVeigh will not play another one-hour, 40-minute match the rest of this year. That's what they did against Texas A&M in the second round, prevailing in a 9-8 (2) thriller to clinch the doubles point for Stanford. Now they will battle Clemson's No. 3 team of Ina Hadziselimovic and Alexandra Luc- the only Tigers doubles squad that finished and won both matches in the opening two rounds. This duo best represents Clemson down the stretch: on fire. Hadziselimovic and Luc have won 12 in a row.

    All six players in Stanford's entire singles lineup are nationally-ranked. Not many programs can boast that statistic and it's a tribute to the Cardinal's seemingly annual superior depth, a key factor in the program winning five of the last seven NCAA championships. For Clemson, only Mijacika at 17-5 owns a winning record against nationally-ranked players. That could mean a few victories for Stanford at the bottom of the lineup if sophomore Lindsay Burdette, senior Whitney Deason and McVeigh are clicking. Did we mention that Stanford has advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals nine years in a row?

    Aside from Stanford and top-seeded Northwestern, Clemson is just as hot as anyone right now. That 12-match winning streak the Tigers are enjoying? Well it includes a 4-1 pasting of defending NCAA champion and then-No. 2-ranked Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament semifinals- the type of victory that will get you noticed immediately. It's a feat even Stanford might be a little jealous of, as the Cardinal is mired in a two-match mini-slump against nemesis Georgia Tech. One of those losses came this year when the Yellow Jackets squeezed out a 4-3 win in the Cardinal's fourth match of the year at the National Team Indoors in Wisconsin. The other loss came last February at the same tournament, only it stung a little more- that 4-3 defeat snapped Stanford's historic 89-match winning streak.

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