What You Need To Know:<BR>No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Clemson In NCAA Round of 16

May 16, 2010

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No. 8 Stanford Cardinal (22-1, 8-0 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 9 Clemson Tigers (24-5, 9-2 ACC)

  • NCAA Women's Tennis Championships - Round of 16
  • Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3 p.m. PT
  • Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, GA
  • Weather Forecast: 82 degrees, partly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms

    Stanford (22-1, 8-0 Pac-10) has advanced to the NCAA Championships round of 16 for the 25th year in a row. Ranked No. 8 in the latest edition of the national ITA rankings, the Cardinal has also been awarded the No. 8 overall seed in the postseason draw. Now the action heats up in steamy Athens, Ga., as the nation's top 16 teams remain in the hunt for a national championship.

    In convincing fashion, posting 4-0 shutouts of Fairfield (first round) and SMU (second round) while extending its NCAA-record home winning streak to 164 matches in a row- a stretch that spans 11 years. Stanford wrapped up both matches very quickly, although that's to be expected during the early rounds. After its run of 21 consecutive Pac-10 championships came to an end last year, Stanford captured this year's Pac-10 title outright with an 8-0 mark and snagged the league's automatic bid. Since suffering its only loss of the year (6-1 at UCLA) back on Feb. 26, Stanford has won 15 matches in a row.

    You'll have to forgive the locals if they don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for Clemson (24-5, 9-2 ACC). That's because the Tigers knocked off Georgia 4-2 in the second round, leaving the host school's fans with only their men's team to cheer for. But Clemson has been a postseason regular regardless, as the Tigers have now reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year and sixth time over the last seven seasons. An at-large entrant out of the ACC, Clemson raced out to an 8-0 start, did not suffer back-to-back losses all year and took third in conference play.

    Forced to play at the Nos. 4 and 5 positions last year as a freshman, Veronica Li has excelled at the No. 6 spot in 2010 and continues to be one of Stanford's most consistent performers. Sitting at 25-7 overall, she is also tied with Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette for the team lead in dual match victories with 20. It takes a certain type of player to hold down the No. 6 spot, and Li has been the perfect fit. The only Stanford player to complete and win her first two postseason matches, Li has been crushing her opponents as of late: during her last seven victories, she has surrendered more than two games in any set only once. Her likely opponent is Swedish freshman Caroline Magnusson, who has earned the bulk of the starts at No. 6 down the stretch for the Tigers.

    A no-brainer here, with two of the nation's top-ranked doubles teams slugging it out at the No. 1 spot. Clemson's Josipa Bek and Ina Hadziselimovic, ranked No. 7 in the country, must feel like they can't catch a break. In its most recent match, the Clemson duo dropped a 9-7 decision to Georgia's Chelsea Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist (No. 8 nationally) that resulted in the Bulldogs clinching the doubles point. Now the Tiger tandem will have its hands full with Stanford's team of Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette, ranked No. 2 in the country. Both doubles teams are ranked in the top-10 but here's a key statistic worth mentioning: Bek and Hadziselimovic are 10-7 against nationally-ranked teams while Barte and Burdette check in at 16-4. Stanford's talented duo sets the tone at the top of the lineup, as the Cardinal has been dominant in doubles all season.

    Last season's round of 16 loss to Baylor represented Stanford's earliest exit from the postseason in 11 years. After all, Stanford had reached the national championship match eight times since 1998. Not only is Stanford on a mission to erase the memory of last year's early exit, the Cardinal is firing on all cylinders right now. There aren't too many one-loss teams remaining in the postseason, and with dominant doubles play (Stanford has claimed the doubles point in all but one match) and impressive singles depth (60-9 combined at the Nos. 4-6 spots), the Cardinal is in prime position to make a deep tourney run. Stanford should have more than enough to prevail in this 8-9 toss-up.

    The Tigers won't be intimidated. The second round victory over No. 19 Georgia was Clemson's eighth this year over a top-25 opponent. In addition to beating Georgia once again back in February when the Bulldogs were ranked fourth, Clemson also has a 4-3 home victory over then-No. 7 Duke on its ledger. Now the Tigers also suffered a 5-2 loss to USC (an opponent Stanford defeated 4-3), but that happened at the National Team Indoor Championships. And Clemson already boasts 'bragging rights', as the only connection between these two schools in 2010 occurred back in October, with Keri Wong outlasting Lindsay Burdette 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 during the ITA All-America Qualifying round in Burdette's first match of the season. Those two players would likely match up again at the No. 2 spot on Thursday.

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