No. 9 Men's Tennis Begins Quest For 18th National Championship

May 5, 2009

Tournament Central | Three Cardinal Honored On Pac-10 Men's Tennis All-Conference Teams

No. 9 Stanford Cardinal (17-5, 3-3 Pac-10)
- vs. -
Sacramento State Hornets (19-6, 8-0 Big Sky)
NCAA Men's Tennis Championships - First Round
Friday, May 8, 2009 - 2 p.m.
Taube Family Tennis Stadium - Stanford, CA
Weather Forecast: 77 degrees, sunny

No. 9 Stanford (17-5, 3-3 Pac-10) will be making its 30th NCAA Tournament appearance (since the current format began in 1977) when first round competition gets underway at campus sites this weekend. The Cardinal has been tabbed the No. 9 overall seed in this year's draw and earned home-court advantage at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium for first and second round action. The final 16 teams square off at the NCAA Championships, hosted by Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, beginning Thursday, May 14.

The Cardinal enters the postseason as an at-large entrant out of one the most competitive conferences in the nation. Although Stanford was denied the automatic bid that is awarded to the conference champion, the Cardinal defeated Pac-10 winner UCLA earlier in the season in non-conference play, besting the Bruins 4-3 in Los Angeles, and only fell to them by the same margin during league play. In fact, four of Stanford’s five losses were by only one point, with the other coming in the form of a 4-2 loss to No. 3 Georgia in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.  The Cardinal picked up three huge upsets over the season, besting No. 7 Florida and No. 2 Texas at the ITA Indoors and No. 4 USC in Los Angeles and afterwards earned its first No. 1 ranking since the 2002 season.

The Hornets qualified for the field of 64 after securing its seventh Big Sky Conference title and second in three years, and having won 10 of their last 11 matches. Despite picking up 19 wins, Sacramento State has not been recognized in the Campbell’s ITA National Team Rankings since the 2007 season and fell to each of the four ranked teams it played this season. The Hornets have prepared themselves for the NCAA Tournament by playing some of the top competition in California and have already faced Stanford this season, falling to the Cardinal 7-0 in Stanford’s first match of the season. Sacramento State is 0-5 all-time at the NCAA Championships, and twice has been shutout by the Cardinal in the postseason (1999 and 2002).

…the Pac-10 Singles Champion and Freshman of the Year, No. 34 freshman Bradley Klahn.  Klahn earned an at-large bid into this year’s NCAA Singles Championships and has gone 33-7 overall and 18-6 against nationally-ranked opponents.  The young left-hander has gone a tear recently, winning 20 of his last 21 matches since February 21 and downing No. 7 Robert Farah (USC) in the Pac-10 semifinals on April 25.  Klahn will most likely face Anton Stryhas or Jason Smith.  The Cardinal is well stocked in the top-three, as Klahn is joined by 2009 first-team All-Pac-10 honoree and last year’s ITA National Rookie of the Year Alex Clayton (28-10 overall, 13-5 duals) who will most likely face Kiryl Harbatsiuk in the top slot, and fellow rookie left-hander and second-team All-Pac-10 selection Ryan Thacher (18-8 overall, 17-6 duals) who has been solid at the No. 3 position.  The bottom of Stanford’s lineup cannot be discounted though, as the depth of the Cardinal is one of its major strengths this season.  Senior Matt Bruch, who has spent a majority of his time at No. 4 this season is a former conference singles and doubles champion and can play a pivotal role in the match, while junior Richard Wire at the No. 5 position spent a majority of the season nationally-ranked.

Klahn and Thacher, the nation’s No. 28 pair, have been hard to beat when teamed up.  The two lefties have only lost three of their 13 matches (two of those losses were tiebreakers) and are a perfect 5-0 against nationally-ranked opponents.  The duo captured the Pac-10 doubles title and took down the second-ranked pair of Robert Farah and Steve Johnson while doing so.  They will most likely take on No. 58 Stryhas and Harbatsiuk at the No. 1 position.  Earlier in the season, Stryhas and Harbatsiuk fell to Blake Muller and Richard Wire, 8-6.

Stanford has history working in its favor, having already shutout the Hornets this season and owning a 2-0 all-time record against them in the postseason.  The Cardinal is far more experienced in the NCAA Tournament and has tested itself against the best of the best in college tennis. Including Stanford, Sacramento State has only played four ranked teams, falling to No. 12 Tulsa 6-1, No. 18 Oklahoma State 4-3, and No. 6 USC 7-0.  Also, the Hornets, in their five NCAA losses, have never been able to score a point on their opponents.

Because of that same underperforming history in the NCAA Tournament, the Hornets are hungry to turn things around.  If they can manage to steal the doubles point, the pressure on Stanford increases, and would with each point that Sacramento State can take.  Having already played the Cardinal this season will also help the Hornets adjust their game, and as the cliché goes, “it’s hard to beat a team once and even harder to beat them twice.”


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