Men's and women's tennis off to Sweet 16

Since their inception, the terms "Stanford tennis" and "NCAA Championships" have become synonymous. Thus, it should come as no shock that both Lele Forood's and John Whitlinger's teams were part of the NCAA Tennis Championships' Field of 64. It should also come as no surprise that the ladies and gents advanced out of their pods and on to Athens for the final frontier of the 2012 tennis season.

On the women's side, things went pretty ho-hum for Forood and Co., despite playing without Kristie Ahn, one of the key players in the loaded Cardinal lineup. Ahn, who missed last year's final versus Florida, has been sidelined for the majority of the year with a left foot injury. The first chapter for the Stanford women was a curious one as the Stony Brook Seawolves arrived on The Farm with only five eligible players, meaning that America East's finest had to forfeit one doubles match and one singles match before play even began. And while Stony Brook was able to hit the unofficial Kevo over of 70 minutes for match length, it was still an easy 4-0 job for the host side.

Saturday afternoon presented the Card with the opportunity to get to the Round of 16 for the 27th straight season; all they had to do was knock off the Yale Bulldogs. Take care of their Ivy League opponent they did with another 4-0 whitewashing. Stanford put pressure on Yale early by swiftly taking the doubles point and quickly going up 2-0 thanks to Nicole Gibbs boat-racing Yale's Elizabeth Epstein 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 singles. Fifth-ranked Mallory Burdette, who has yet to lose a dual match this season (think about that!), quickly followed with a tidy 1 & 3 whipping at No. 2. The ticket to Athens was officially punched when Stacey Tan took care of Hanna Yu 6-4, 6-1 on court three. Epstein shouldn't feel too bad as Gibbs has been dominating all comers most of the season. She is 21-1 since mid-February and lost a total of only four games in her last four matches in winning the Pac-12 singles title in late April. Gibbs is seeded third and a real threat to capture the individual singles title in Athens.

Switching sexes, the men had their cake and ate it too, but Whitlinger and Friends had it in the oven a little longer than the women. Not in the first round, though: the Card took care of Big Sky champ Sacramento State 4-0 rather easily, winning the doubles point with a couple of 8-1 decisions and clinching a spot in the second round thanks to John Morrissey's double-bagel win at No. 3.

Sunday, however, was an absolute war. Santa Clara made its first-ever NCAA tennis tournament appearance and strolled into Taube playing with house money… and a boatload of Rough Riders on hand to cheer ‘em on to a 4-1 upset of Texas on Saturday morning. Taube Family Tennis Center might as well have been Cameron Indoor for the Longhorn-Bronco tussle, because the Rough Riders went absolutely bonkers with each ace, winner and rally. The doubles point was especially intense, and once the Broncs went up 1-0, they were able to carry that momentum over to the singles matches, winning three of four over the Horns.

So the Card had their hands full on Sunday, and though Stanford beat Santa Clara 4-1, it took darn near four hours to do so. All three doubles matches were tight, with the Stanford teams of Bradley Klahn and John Morrissey and Robert Stineman and Jamin Ball winning their pro sets 9-7 and 9-8 (4). Morrissey again provided the finishing touch, winning a three-set singles grinder over Santa Clara's Tom Pham 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Santa Clara sure gave Stanford a run for its money, but at the end of the day, the Card moved on to tennis' Sweet 16.

While the women face 13th-seeded Northwestern again in the Round of 16 in the umpteenth version of the Danna Bowl this year (Stanford and Northwestern have competed against each other in wrestling, lacrosse, softball and tennis already and have deals to face off in football and basketball), the men will face the sixth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, a team they beat 4-1 just three months ago. The men do work Friday at 1 p.m. Pacific time, while the women get busy against the Big Ten Cats a day earlier at 9 a.m. Stanford Standard. Can the sides continue their charge towards NCAA glory? Stay tuned to The Bootleg to find out.


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