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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 4, 2012

Cardinal teams set for NCAAs

Men, women will open tournament once again at home next weekend

by Rick Eymer

By the time the NCAA team tennis bracket works itself out toward the end of May, the fifth-ranked Stanford women's team hopes to have regained its footing among the top tier of programs.

The Cardinal (18-1) was ranked second entering last year's tournament and finished second overall. The previous season Stanford came in as the eighth-ranked team in the tournament and finished as the national champion.

This year the Cardinal, which opens the NCAA tournament at home against Stoney Brook at 2 p.m. Friday, May 11, is ranked fifth and seeded fourth.

The 10th-ranked Stanford men (17-8) look to surprise some people when it opens the NCAA tournament at home against Sacramento State at noon Saturday, May 12 as the No. 11 seed.

Stanford hosts the first two rounds of tournament at Taube Family Tennis Center, where the journey usually begins. The men are looking for their first national title since 2000, while the women are in search of NCAA title No. 17, and the first since 2010.

It was another interesting year for the seeding committee, which had to sort out all kinds of scenarios.

UCLA was awarded the overall No. 1 seed despite finishing third in the Pac-12 and losing two of its final three matches. Stanford and fifth-seeded USC shared the title.

The Women of Troy beat the Bruins in their most recent meeting, while UCLA handed the Cardinal its lone defeat of the season. Stanford beat the Bruins in a nonconference match in Los Angeles.

UCLA also beat USC twice this season, and has also lost to California. Stanford also beat second-seeded Florida and is 12-1 against the NCAA field.

Florida (21-1) also played a terrific schedule and is the defending national champion, winning the title against the Cardinal on Stanford's home court in dramatic fashion. The Gators are 15-1 against the NCAA field.

Duke is the third seed, while Georgia is seeded sixth, North Carolina is No. 7 and Alabama is No. 8. Florida beat all of them and played six of the top eight teams.

Stanford begins play with the Seawolves, an eclectic group of foreign players and a couple of New Yorkers. Stony Brook (14-7) brings a four-match winning streak to the party. The Seawolves have won eight of nine overall.

Stony Brook won the first America East championship in program history, upsetting 18-time defending conference champion Boston University in the process.

The Seawolves, led by freshman Polina Movchan and junior Nini Lagvilava, are 0-2 against teams in the NCAA field, losing to Army, 4-3, and to Yale, 7-0.

Movchan won the clinching match in both the semifinals and finals of the America East tournament and is 18-2 at No. 2 singles. Lagvilava is 16-4 in dual matches and earlier this season became the first player in program history to be nationally ranked by the ITA.

National rankings are nothing new for Stanford players. Pac-12 champion Nicole Gibbs is ranked third behind Florida's Allie Will and Duke's Beatrice Capra. UCLA's Robin Anderson is ranked fourth, followed by Stanford's Mallory Burdette.

St. Mary's (14-7) and Yale (19-3) play at 11 a.m. on May 11, with the winner meeting either Stanford or Stony Brook at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12 for a berth in the Round of 16, which will be held the following weekend in Athens, Ga.

Stanford owns a 120-15 record since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1982 and has yet to lose a first-round match.

The Cardinal men have not lost in the opening round either and should be heavily favored to get past Sacramento State. The Hornets (11-12) have played every match this year with either four or five freshmen in their regular lineup and upset Montana in the conference tournament to advance.

Santa Clara and Texas play Saturday, May 12, at 9 a.m., with the winner playing Stanford or Sacramento State on Sunday, May 13 at noon.

Stanford owns a 100-17 record since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1977. During that time, Stanford has won 15 NCAA team titles. The Cardinal reached the NCAA quarterfinal round last year for the first time since 2006. Stanford last advanced to the semifinals in 2003.

Senior Ryan Thacher is Stanford's highest-ranked player at No. 27. Senior Bradley Klahn, who missed the first part of the season with an injury, is at No. 36.

The top five ranked players are Virginia's Mitchell Frank, USC's Steve Johnson, Kentucky's Eric Quigley, Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins and Duke's Henrique Cunha.

Klahn and Thacher look to make one last successful run in the NCAA men's singles and doubles tournament that begins May 23 in Athens, Ga.

Klahn and Thacher reached the national championship match in the doubles tournament last year. Klahn won the national singles title in 2010.

The Stanford women will be represented by three singles players and two doubles teams.

Gibbs, Burdette and Stacy Tan will play in the singles tournament, while Gibbs and Burdette look to defend their NCAA doubles title. Tan and Ellen Tsay will also compete in doubles.

Gibbs won the Pac-12 singles title last week and reached the national semifinals last year after beating teammate Hilary Barte.

Tan reached the singles title match, losing to California's Jana Juricova. Tan downed Juricova in last week's conference tournament.

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