Enjoying Athens: No. 8 Stanford Returns To NCAA Semifinals

May 23, 2010

Live Scoring/Video

Down Goes No. 1 Baylor... | ...No. 9 Clemson No Match

No. 8 Stanford Cardinal (24-1, 8-0 Pac-10)
- vs. -
No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-3, 7-0 Big East)

NCAA Women's Tennis Championships - Semifinals
Monday, May 24, 2010 - 11 a.m. PT
Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, GA
Weather Forecast: 81 degrees, partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorms

ATHENS, Ga.- Four teams remain in contention for the 2010 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship, with action resuming on Monday with a pair of semifinal matches.

Among that group is Stanford (No. 8 ITA ranking, No. 8 NCAA seed), the most storied program in NCAA women's tennis history. Even though Stanford is chasing its 16th national championship, the Cardinal is making just its first appearance in the semifinals since 2007. That brief hiatus, in addition to being this year's lowest seed remaining in the draw, is enough to label Stanford as the underdog.

However, Stanford checks in at 24-1 overall and is riding a 17-match winning streak since suffering its only loss of the year back on Feb. 26 (a 6-1 defeat at UCLA). Those credentials, along with a rich tradition that is unmatched by any other program, make Stanford a dangerous threat to claim the hardware.

Blocking Stanford's path is Notre Dame (No. 6 ITA ranking, No. 5 NCAA seed). Meanwhile, North Carolina (No. 2 ITA ranking, No. 2 NCAA seed) tangles with Florida (No. 3 ITA ranking, No. 3 NCAA seed) on the other side of the bracket.

So just how has Stanford reached this point? Here are a few takeaways to keep in mind as Stanford gets ready to face Notre Dame on Monday afternoon:

Georgia On My Mind
Maybe it's the Southern hospitality. Maybe it's the humid, unpredictable weather. One thing is for sure- the city of Athens, Ga., has always been kind in rolling out the welcome mat to Stanford. This year marks the fifth time that the NCAA Championships have taken place in Athens. Aside from its semifinal finish in 2007, the Cardinal has fared very well. Stanford won it all in 2006 (4-1 over Miami), 2005 (4-0 over Texas) and was the runner-up in 1994 to host Georgia.

The Baylor 'Hurdle' Has Been Cleared
In 2008, Baylor was a young team on the rise. The fifth-seeded Lady Bears shocked fourth-seeded Stanford 4-1 en route to a NCAA semifinal appearance and its most successful year in school history. In 2009, the Lady Bears defeated the Cardinal 4-3 in a seven-hour marathon in the NCAA round of 16, Stanford's quickest postseason exit since a two-win-and-done finish in 1998. With essentially its entire lineup returning and having been ranked No. 1 for much of the season, 2010 figured to be the year for Baylor to take the next step. But Stanford has enjoyed a fine year of its own, and the Cardinal picked up its biggest victory in recent memory with a 4-2 upset of top-seeded Baylor on Saturday night. With the emotions of that match still fresh, Stanford will need to regroup quickly against a solid Notre Dame bunch.

The Kids Are Alright
Freshmen Mallory Burdette and Stacey Tan have been plugged right into key spots of the singles and doubles lineups, and the rookie duo is a big reason Stanford has been so successful. Ranked No. 33 in the country, Burdette has held down the No. 3 spot in singles and leads the club in overall victories (35-5) and dual match wins (22-2). The youngest of three Burdettes (Erin was a four-time All-American from 2002-05 and current senior Lindsay is a three-time All-American), Mallory has lost only three times since the calendar flipped to February and is 3-0 so far in the postseason. Ranked No. 68 nationally, Tan has settled into the No. 4 position and is 28-9 overall and 16-6 in duals, with her 28 victories ranking third on the team. Prior to a loss against teammate Hilary Barte in the Pac-10 Championships in her last completed match on Apr. 23, Tan had won seven in a row. Tan has yet to finish a match in the postseason, but if the contest is coming down to the wire she has been tough with a team-best 6-4 record in three-set matches. Burdette and Tan also make up Stanford's No. 2 doubles team, and the duo is ranked No. 56 with a 28-7 overall record and 20-4 dual match mark.

A 1-0 Lead Usually Helps
Stanford possesses arguably one of the most dominating doubles groups in the country. The Cardinal has won the doubles point in all but one match: its only loss of the year to UCLA. Stanford's top two doubles teams are nationally-ranked (No. 2 Hilary Barte/Lindsay Burdette and No. 56 Mallory Burdette/Stacey Tan) and its third tandem has been beaten only once in a dual match all season. Stanford is 22-3 at the No. 1 position, 21-4 at the No. 2 spot and 24-1 on court three, adding up to a combined mark of 67-8 in doubles play. Led by the 2009 NCAA Doubles Championship runners-up team of Barte and Lindsay Burdette, Stanford has been able to pounce on its opponents quickly and apply the pressure in singles play.

Quick Scout of Notre Dame
One year after making the national semifinals for the first time in school history, Notre Dame (26-3, 7-0 Big East) is back at the same stage for a second straight year. The Fighting Irish reached this point with 4-2 victories over California (round of 16) and Tennessee (quarterfinals) after back-to-back shutouts of IPFW and Boise State in the first two rounds. Notre Dame has won 11 in a row dating back to a 6-1 loss at Baylor on Apr. 3. Stanford and Notre Dame have faced three common opponents: Baylor, California and TCU. The Fighting Irish went 2-1 against that trio while the Cardinal was 4-0.

Stanford-Notre Dame: The Last Meeting
Meetings have been rare between these two squads, with Notre Dame claiming a 4-3 victory on Feb. 13, 2009, at the National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wis. Stanford won the doubles point and led 3-1 in that match before Notre Dame rallied back for the win. Here's how the match played out that afternoon:
1) No. 1 Kristy Frilling/Kelcy Tefft (ND) d. No. 41 Hilary Barte/Lindsay Burdette (STAN) 8-4
2) Carolyn McVeigh/Jessica Nguyen (STAN) d. Cosmina Ciobanu/Kali Krisik (ND) 8-3
3) Logan Hansen/Jennifer Yen (STAN) d. Shannon Mathews/Colleen Rielley (ND) 9-8 (4)
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3
1) No. 26 Hilary Barte (STAN) d. No. 45 Kelcy Tefft (ND) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
2) No. 39 Kristy Frilling (ND) d. Jessica Nguyen (STAN) 7-5, 6-3
3) No. 97 Lindsay Burdette (STAN) d. No. 46 Kali Krisik (ND) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2
4) No. 62 Kristen Rafael (ND) d. Carolyn McVeigh (STAN) 7-5, 6-1
5) Cosmina Ciobanu (ND)) d. Veronica Li (STAN) 6-0, 6-2
6) Shannon Mathews (ND) d. Jennifer Yen (STAN) 6-4, 6-3
Order of Finish: 5, 3, 1, 2, 6, 4