The Stanford women's tennis team was not favored to win the NCAA title last season. But, the Cardinal did.
Despite being the defending champ, Stanford is once again not favored to win it all. However, stay tuned as the Cardinal begins its title defense.
Stanford (16-2) opens the NCAA tournament at home Friday at the Taube Family Tennis Center with a match against MAAC titlist Quinnipiac (13-10) at 2 p.m. Tulsa and Long Beach State square off at 11 a.m. with the two winners meeting Saturday at 1 p.m.
Last year, the Cardinal opened the tournament seeded 12th and went on to become the lowest seed to win the national title. Once Stanford reached the Round of 16 in Illinois, its opponents were seeded fifth or higher.
Should the Cardinal reach the Round of 16, held in Georgia this season, opponents are likely to be seeded sixth or higher.
Stanford had to beat last year's Pac-12 champion USC in last year's Round of 16. This year, the likely opponent is Pac-12 champ California.
The Cardinal has enjoyed success on the courts at Georgia at the NCAA tournament, winning three of the past five titles held in Athens.
Stanford is making its 33rd consecutive appearance in the NCAAs, compiling a 129-16 record in since the tournament went to its present format in 1982.
All six players in the singles lineup, including No. 3 Kristie Ahn (26-3 overall), are ranked in the top 60 and all will compete in the NCAA singles championship tournament.
On the doubles side, two of Stanford's three pairings own a national ranking. That depth has proved important this year: the Cardinal needed to fill a void left by the early departure of back-to-back NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs, who turned pro following last year's national title run, while integrating a trio of freshmen into the lineup.
Sophomore Krista Hardebeck, who won clinching matches against No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 Florida last year, has anchored the No. 2 spot.
Junior Ellen Tsay, who clinched Stanford's win over USC in last season's round of 16, is 21-7 overall at the No. 5 spot.
Freshmen Taylor Davidson, Caroline Doyle and Carol Zhao have combined for a 75-17 record. Davidson is 22-7 overall and playing at the No. 4 spot, Doyle owns a team-best 28-5 overall record while occupying the No. 6 position and Zhao has been nearly unstoppable at the No. 3 line with a 25-5 overall record.
The Cardinal won its first 13 matches of the season, which included a 5-2 win over the Golden Bears in Berkeley, before losing at home to UCLA. Stanford later lost, 6-1, at home to California.
Stanford does own a 7-0 victory over then-No. 5 Florida, which is seeded eighth this year. Host Georgia is the overall No. 1 seed, followed by Alabama, Virginia, Duke and UCLA.
The Cardinal has not won back-to-back national titles since winning three straight between 2004-06.
Stanford (14-5) opens the NCAA tournament on the road, meeting Tulsa (15-12) on Saturday morning in Waco, Texas.
Host Baylor and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi play in the other first-round match.
The Cardinal won its last five regular-season matches before being upset by Oregon in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Stanford owns a 103-19 record since the NCAA tournament went to its present format in 1977, participating in all but three tournaments. During that time, Stanford has won 15 NCAA team titles, with the most recent crown in 2000.
The availability of Maciek Romanowicz, who has been sidelined by injury, is unlikely to be determined before Saturday.
The talented sophomore is 13-4 overall, 8-2 in duals and capable of playing at any of the top three courts. Romanowicz actually managed to hold down a singles ranking for nearly two months despite limited playing time.
Stanford has received its most consistent singles efforts from No. 1 John Morrissey and Anthony Tsodikov this season.
Morrissey has done an admirable job at the No. 1 spot, beating two top-60 players down the stretch and earning four victories in three-set matches.
A walk-on at the No. 5 spot, Tsodikov has a team-best 21 victories, while his 13-5 dual record also leads the club.
Daniel Ho, Trey Strobel, Nolan Paige and Robert Stineman complete the singles lineup. Menlo School grad Jamin Ball has been teaming with Morrissey in doubles play. The pair has won their past three matches.
Stanford makes its fifth appearance at the NCAA tournament and second consecutive, when it plays No. 9 ranked Duke on Friday in a first-round game at Notre Dame.
The No. 19 Cardinal (14-4) was second in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season and tournament. Duke (9-7) was fourth in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference and lost to Virginia in the first round of the ACC tournament.
The winner will match up with Notre Dame (9-8), the ACC's seventh-place team, or Big South Conference champion High Point (14-5) in the second round on Sunday.
Stanford returned 11 starters and 96 percent of its goals from last year's team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Stanford went 4-1 against teams that have been ranked in the IWLCA Top 20 at some point during the season.
MPSF Player of the Year, junior midfielder Hannah Farr, leads a balanced scoring attack as seven individuals have 20 or more goals.
Stanford finished second in the MPSF with a 7-2 conference record, and advanced to the MPSF tournament final before losing to host Denver, 14-11.