HR 4: Barte powers tennis back to NCAA crown

During the summer months, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one. Gymnast Carly Janinga, soccer's Kelley O'Hara and football's Toby Gerhart were the first three members of The Bootleg's 2009-2010 Honor Roll. Next is a woman who didn't come in fourth too often this year – individual and national tennis champion Hilary Barte.

In a June 15 article, we released the 31 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll for the 2009-2010 school year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."

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Stanford's most exciting national championship this past year came on the hard court, when women's tennis rallied for a late-May 4-3 victory over Florida in Athens, Ga. Leading the way was Hilary Barte, the No. 1 player on the squad and, before the season was over, a national champion two times over.

A rising senior and international relations major, Barte finished her singles season at 38-9 overall and 22-4 in dual matches, whilst playing every match in the No. 1 slot. She made the semifinals of the NCAA singles tournament and was singles runner-up at the Pac-10 Tournament.

Barte's doubles record was better yet – 42-6 overall and 22-4 in duals with her partner, senior Lindsay Burdette. Most impressively, of course, Barte and Burdette won when it counted, claiming four doubles titles on the season, including the NCAA Doubles Championship, Stanford's 13th such title and first since 2005.

As a result of her accomplishments, the honors poured in for Barte. She was named an All-American in singles and doubles for the third straight year. She was First Team All Pac-10 and, at the Stanford Athletic Department banquet, was named one of the year's outstanding female juniors, along with soccer's Christen Press and volleyball's Cassidy Lichtman.

More impressive than the accolades, of course, is the matter of a national championship, and, in turn, winning a national championship is more than simply accumulating more points than your opponent (though that is not a bad place to start). Owing to its great tradition and institutional advantages, Stanford's women's tennis will be more skilled than 90 percent of its opponents in any given year, yet it had been since 2006 since the women managed to put it all together to claim an NCAA title. Short of being in the Stanford huddle, we can never know for sure exactly whose leadership, whose inspiration, whose confidence and intensity proved crucial, but a plethora of evidence points in Barte's direction:

  • As a junior on a relatively young squad, she commanded a leadership position.
  • As the team's best player, regularly facing (and beating) opponents' best players, she commands more respect yet from her teammates.
  • Her success in winning four doubles tournaments on the year suggests a great killer instinct, and an ability to bring the most out of teammates in the biggest of situations.
  • Coach Lele Forood's credentials are beyond comparison, yet she hadn't won a title in three seasons – until it was Barte at the helm of this year's squad.
  • From watching the team's matches, the squad's chemistry was obvious (look again at Lindsay Burdette's tackle of her little sister), and Barte surely had a huge role in maintaining that comradarie.

So it is for those intangible qualities that are not counted in any column in a box score – yet manage to affect indirectly every column in that box score – that we honor Barte as our fourth 2009-2010 Honor Roll winner. One of college athletics' greatest assets is that it is a laboratory for building leadership, and it is readily apparent that Barte has those leadership qualities in droves.

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