NCAA tennis at Stanford this weekend

Both the men's and women's teams are hosting fist and second round matches at Taube Tennis Stadium this weekend. The #1-ranked and top-seeded women are seeking their third straight NCAA crown while the men are looking for an unprecedented 18th all-time team title.

The top-seeded Cardinal women’s team (20-1) will face Louisiana-Monroe in first-round action on Friday afternoon at 2 pm. Assuming the Cardinal women get by the unheralded Lady Indians (hey, that’s our nickname!), they will face the winner of Colorado and Michigan on Saturday at 2:30 pm. None of these three teams should provide much competition for Stanford, who sports four players ranked in the top 30 of the NCAA’s while no player from the other three teams is ranked in the Top 100. Two wins by the Cardinal this weekend will send them to the “Sweet 16” in Gainesville, Fla. (May15-18). The probable round-of-16 opponent is Arizona (a team Stanford beat 6-1 twice this season) while 7th-ranked Georgia would be the likely foe in the quarters. The semi-finals could feature a re-match with #4 California, who handed the Cardinal its lone loss this season (at the Team Indoor Championships in early February). Of course, Stanford bounced back to sweep the Bears in two subsequent dual matches. But, the stiffest competition for Stanford in this tournament will be the host school – the University of Florida. The Gator women’s squad is very deep with all six singles players ranked in the Top 100, although Florida did drop two dual matches this year (to #3 Duke and #15 Vanderbilt).

The men’s team (21-3) will open against Oral Roberts at noon on Saturday. Barring a huge upset, Stanford will then face the winner between Arizona State and Fresno State. That match will be played on Sunday at noon. The winner of this sub-regional will advance to the “Sweet 16” at Athens, GA, where all subsequent rounds will be played from May17-20. The men are ranked 4th nationally but “only” received a 5th seed in the NCAA tournament while Cal was given (and I mean given) the 4th seed despite a #7 ranking and a third-place finish in the Pac-10. Meanwhile, Stanford won the conference with a perfect 7-0 mark and UCLA finished 2nd. Either Cal A.D. Steve Gladstone seeded the teams or the NCAA tournament committee was out partying with Mike Price and Larry Eustachy the night before making the draw. Nevertheless, assuming Stanford gets through the first weekend, the Cardinal would likely face #12 Tulane in the round of 16. Back in early March, Stanford easily defeated the Green Wave (7-0). Should the Cardinal continue to advance, a quarterfinal match-up with Cal-Berkeley is looming. As Pac-10 Coach of the Year Dick Gould said about the seeding, “at least if we both get that far, we can ‘settle’ this.” Top-seeded and undefeated Illinois would be the probable foe in the semis. #2 Baylor (who beat Stanford at the National Team Indoors in February), #3 Florida and #6 UCLA are on the opposite side of the draw.

The women’s team is lead by coach Lele Forood, a fomer Stanford All-American player whose professional ranking reached as high as #30 in the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s. Forood was an assistant coach under Frank Brennan for 10 years before her promotion to the top spot upon Brennan’s retirement in 2000. Forood has amassed an incredible 77-2 record in three seasons and will try to win her third straight NCAA title in Gainesville. As noted above, the women’s team boasts four highly-ranked players – #4 Amber Liu (a freshman from La Mesa, CA), #16 Lauren Barnikow (a junior from Woodbridge, NJ), Erin Burdette (a sophomore from Jackson, GA) and #11 Alice Barnes (another freshman from Cambridge, UK). Unbelievably, the team is so deep that despite her #11 ranking, rookie Barnes is playing at the #4 position where she has achieved a perfect 21-0 dual match record. Barnes downplays her playing position vis-à-vis her ranking, “my number one priority is to win the team title and then we'll see about the individual. I've said all along that if I wanted to focus on individual ranking and performances then I would be on the tour, not in college.”  Junior Emilia Anderson (Cincinnati, OH) plays #5 while sophomore Story Tweedie-Yates (Redmond, WA) mans (womans?) the #6 slot. As you may have noticed, there is not one senior in the starting line-up for this stacked team. In doubles, the Barnikow-Burdette duo is the top-ranked team in the nation. [More noteworthy, the B&B team even defeated a veteran but game Los Altos Golf & Country Club 5.5 men’s doubles team earlier in the week.]

The men are lead by senior David Martin (Tulsa, OK) who is 17-5 in dual matches and ranked #8. Another senior, Scott Lipsky (Merrick, NY) plays #2 and is 15-6 on the season.  Here is his assessment of the Cardinal’s tourney chances: “I think that we have to believe in our abilities in order to have a successful tournament.  The last couple of weeks have really shown everyone on the team that we have the ability to do some amazing things.  Some people might have written us off after Ryan [Haviland] left the team but the wins over Cal and UCLA show that we can compete with every team in the country.” The rest of the line-up features freshman KC Corkery (Manhattan Beach, CA) at #3, sophomore Sam Warburg (Sacramento, CA) at #4 and frosh James Pade (Woodside, CA) at #5. The #6 singles position has been shared by junior Carter Morris (Washington D.C.) and sophomore Phil Sheng (Thousand Oaks, CA). The doubles combo of Lipsky-Martin is ranked #4.

Hope everyone can make it out to the matches this weekend. These teams’ rosters are filled with talented players and great kids who deserve our support. See you there!

Terribly Tough Trivia question: Alice Barnes is continuing a family tradition of heading over "the pond" to play college tennis in America. Her sister Ruth is a junior and plays for Northwestern (a team that has won 5 straight Big 10 titles and is also in the 2003 NCAA draw). But, for what school did her brother Adrian play his college tennis?

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