Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 20, 2011

This streak a winner

Stanford women open Round of 16 with 181 straight home wins

by Rick Eymer

The list of players who have contributed to Stanford's remarkable women's tennis home winning streak includes future professionals, future coaches, NCAA singles and doubles champions, past junior national champions, and a host of others who have achieved success in a wide variety of subjects.

There have been a handful of close calls, with players having to rally from a deficit to give Stanford a 4-3 victory. One match during the streak was finished at the Pac-10 tournament at the Ojai Valley Tennis Club, weeks after rain washed out the doubles competition and the match tied at 3-all.

The streak, at 181 consecutive matches played at Taube Family Tennis Center heading into Friday's 6 p.m. match against Northwestern in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships, is in its second decade.

A dozen years have passed since the Cardinal last tasted defeat at home. The 5-4 loss to Cal on Feb. 27, 1999 is Stanford's only home loss since March of 1995. The Bears, with current Cal coach Amanda Augustus on the playing roster, ended the Cardinal's then-school record streak of 52 consecutive home wins.

The current streak is recognized as the longest active home winning streak of any intercollegiate sport in NCAA Division I athletics, and includes 32 NCAA tournament matches. There's a possibility of adding six more to the total should the undefeated Cardinal (25-0) remain so through the postseason.

Hilary Barte, Mallory Burdette, Veronica Li, Nicole Gibbs, Kristie Ahn, Carolyn McVeigh and Stacey Tan are among the current players who have kept the streak alive. Also contributing this year are Natalie Dillon, Elizabeth Ecker, Amelia Herring and Jennifer Yen.

Barte, who won the NCAA doubles title with Lindsay Burdette last year, carries a career record of 126-26 into the final two weeks of her college career. McVeigh and Yen are also in their final season.

A lot has changed in the world over the past 12 years. Bill Clinton was the president then, Napster was making headlines and the Euro made its debut.

Stanford's roster in 1999 included Marissa Irvin, Teryn Ashley, Lauren Kalvaria, Gabriela Lastra, Jennifer Heiser, Keiko Tokuda and Sarah Pestiau. Frank Brennan was the head coach and Lele Forood was his top assistant.

Brennan owns the first 21 wins of the streak. Forood is at 160 and counting.

The names keep changing, but the success hasn't yet stopped. Laura Granville, Lauren Barnikow, Emilia Anderson, Pinewood grad Leija Hodzic, Amber Liu, Jessica Nguyen, Whitney Deason, Celia Durkin, Alice Barnes, Anne Yelsey, Theresa Logar, plus sisters Erin and Lindsay Burdette all have a stake in the streak.

That 1999 team went on to beat Florida on the Gators' home court to win the national title. Irvin and Toduka clinched the win at No. 2 doubles.

"I truly am in a state of shock," Brennan said at the time. "Maybe we're the best team, maybe we're not. But what we are is a really good group of fighters who pulled it off on the most important day of the year."

Brennan's final home match was a 5-1 victory over Fresno State on May 13, 2000.

Other milestone victories, provided by Stanford media relations director Brian Risso:

Win No. 22, Jan. 26, 2001: Stanford blanked Washington State 7-0 in the first home match played under Forood. Ten years later, Forood still has the Cardinal rolling with six NCAA championships and 10 Pac-10 titles to her credit. She was named the 2003 Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year and is a four-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year recipient.

Win No. 51, May 19, 2002: Hosting the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1997, Stanford notched a 4-1 victory over Florida to claim the national championship on its home court. The victory was well earned for the third-seeded Cardinal, which had to sit through a rain delay of three hours and 10 minutes before competition started shortly after 4 p.m. Erin Burdette's 7-6, 6-2 victory at the No. 4 position sealed the match, as Stanford's senior class of Kalvaria, Lastra and Tokuda wrapped up their collegiate careers with a 116-4 record and three NCAA championships.

Win No. 65, Jan. 26, 2004: Stanford's 7-0 rout of TCU turned out to be win No. 65 during the home winning streak but it also represented the first victory of another improbable stretch. After falling to host Florida, 4-3, in the 2003 NCAA Championship, Stanford opened its 2004 campaign with a ho-hum shutout victory over the Horned Frogs. And 88 consecutive wins would follow, giving the Cardinal an 89-match winning streak that spanned three seasons and produced three more NCAA championships.

Win No. 107, May 23, 2006: For the second time during the home winning streak, Stanford won the NCAA championship on its home court. Appearing in the national championship match for the 20th time in the 27-year history of the event, Stanford captured its 15th team title in a tournament that was pushed back constantly by rainy weather. After winning the doubles point, Celia Durkin and Jessica Nguyen cruised to straight-set wins at the Nos. 5 and 6 positions of the singles lineup. Theresa Logar provided the clincher on court three, winning easily 6-0, 6-3.

Win No. 110, Feb. 17, 2007: Someone in the stands on this Saturday afternoon had to be asking themselves the following question: "is the scoreboard malfunctioning?" That's because for the first time in seven years the number "3" was appearing in the opponent's score column. Stanford had not surrendered three points to an opponent in a home match since April 21, 2000, when the Cardinal downed USC, 6-3. Fast forward to this date against UCLA, and Stanford was actually trailing 3-2 while the match was in the hands of Anne Yelsey and Lindsay Burdette. Both rallied to victories, with Yelsey beating Tracy Lin 6-2, 6-7, 7-6 at the No. 2 spot while Burdette rallied past Elizabeth Lumpkin 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 on court six.

Win No. 142, March 7, 2009: A thriller in every sense of the word. California entered this match ranked No. 7, six spots ahead of No. 13 Stanford. The Golden Bears were a team on the rise, and this one had all the makings of a classic and potential upset. Sure enough, California captured the doubles point and two of the next three singles matches to take a 3-1 lead and silence the Stanford fans. Three matches remained and the situation was the same in all three: a Stanford win in the first set before California bounced back in the second. That's when the comeback started. Li picked up her biggest win of the year on court five, Barte evened the match at 3-3 with a win at the No. 1 spot and Nguyen turned a 5-3 deficit in the third set into a 7-5 victory to secure the 4-3 Stanford win and keep the streak alive.

Win No. 149, April 11, 2009: This Senior Day shutout of Pepperdine resulted in win No. 800 for the Stanford women's tennis program. Heading into the 2009 postseason, Stanford women's tennis has posted an overall record of 800-74. That's good for a .915 winning percentage. Head coach Curly Neal got the program off on the right foot, leading Stanford to an 11-0 mark during the inaugural season back in 1975. There has never been a losing season in the history of the program.

Win No. 160, April 4, 2010 (match completed April 21): In perhaps the most unique of endings during the streak, Stanford's 4-3 victory over USC was actually completed in Ojai, after two postponements. Because UCLA could still claim a share of the Pac-10 title, Stanford was forced to resume its April 4 match against USC that had been tied at 3 after singles, suspended twice and moved to a completely different city. Stanford swept the doubles point, earning the 4-3 win and claiming the outright Pac-10 title in the process. The ITA, along with the NCAA, ruled the contest would count as a home match for Stanford, since the original singles competition was played at the Taube Family Tennis Center with each team collecting three points. Additionally, it was determined that team and individual rankings would be used from the April 4 match. So, home sweet home. In Ojai.

Win No. 164, May 15, 2010: Time to roll the streak over to 2011. Stanford pounded SMU 4-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a result similar to several others during the streak.

Win No. 175, April 1, 2011: Not an April Fool's joke. Surprisingly, for only the third time during the home winning streak, Stanford won a home match played on April 1. This time around the victory came against an up-and-coming Arizona State bunch. The Cardinal actually dropped the doubles point in this match before storming back to win all six singles contests.

So, that brings us back to 181-0 and counting. Forood and her players are hoping it stretches to 185-0 on Tuesday, when Stanford hopes to be playing for yet another national title.

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