By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Stanford men's tennis team left everything it had on the courts of Taube Tennis Center on Saturday in a classic confrontation during the quarterfinals of the NCAA quarterfinals.
There was Bradley Klahn imploring the faithful to raise the roof after his win at No. 1 singles. Matt Kandath fought bravely and gave the Cardinal one final moment of excitement when he won his match at No. 5 singles to tie it at 3-all.
Ryan Thacher handed Virginia's Alex Domijan his first dual-meet loss of the season. Klahn, the defending NCAA singles downed the No. 5 player in the nation.
And then there was senior Alex Clayton on court three, mustering every ounce of energy he could extol from his body. The former national Newcomer of the Year, beset by injuries the past three years, just wasn't able to overcome one final obstacle.
"I felt like I played as well as I've ever played," said Clayton, trying to hold back tears. "It was this close, one point here, one point there. I just couldn't quite get over the line. I came in expecting to win. I was confident."
Virginia senior Sanam Singh, second on the Cavaliers' all-time singles win list and a former No. 1 ranked player, pulled off the win to give his team a 4-3 victory and a trip to the semifinals.
"That was probably the most hostile, biggest crowd I've played in front of," Singh said. "Alex is a great player, an experienced player. He likes to use his forehand and he has a solid first serve. When it was 4-4 in the second set I was able to find something extra and the third set was a dogfight."
The top-ranked, top-seeded and undefeated Cavaliers (33-0) have been eliminated in the semifinals in four of the past five years.
Virginia entered the tournament as the top seed for the fourth consecutive year. The Cavaliers are hoping to breakthrough this time around for the school's first NCAA men's tennis title.
"We needed a match like that," Cavaliers' coach Brian Boland said. "We haven't had many close matches at all. We needed to play through that adversity."
It's little solace for Stanford that it gave Virginia its closest match of the year. No other team had taken more than two points (five times) against the Cavaliers.
"It was a great performance," Stanford coach John Whitlinger said. "I am so proud of the effort. This is something they will never forget. They battled Virginia, a team that is really good, right to the wire."
Stanford (21-6) won 13 in a row entering the match and played like champions.
"These guys have gotten better the whole year," Whitlinger said. "Maybe this was our best match. The last month these guys have been practicing with a purpose and focus."