By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Mallory Burdette knows the feeling of clinching an important match. She did it last year at the NCAA finals and then did it again Monday night, beating Nina Secerbegovic at No. 2 singles and sending the Stanford women's tennis team into its second consecutive national championship match.
The top-seeded and second-ranked Cardinal (28-0) defeated No. 5 Baylor, 4-1, and will meet Florida (30-1) in Tuesday's 4 p.m. title match at Taube Family Tennis Center.
"There's really not much that can compare to clinching the national title but it was a good feeling," Burdette said of her semifinal match. "I was just glad to get through that first set."
The win extended Stanford's home winning streak to 184 matches, a fact that Baylor coach Joey Scrivano said makes the Cardinal overwhelming favorites in its match against Florida, which beat UCLA, 4-0, to advance.
The top-ranked and second-seeded Gators suffered their lone loss of the season at the hands of Stanford in the championship match of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
Stanford and Florida will be meeting in the NCAA finals for the ninth time, with the Cardinal winning it six times, including last year.
"It's becoming a rivalry a little again," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "That's kind of fun."
Sophomore Stacey Tan put the Cardinal ahead, 2-1, with her 6-1, 6-4 win over Karolina Filipiak at No. 5 singles and Veronica Li made it 3-1 with her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Taylor Ormond at No. 6 singles.
"I don't want to give everyone the impression that we are close," Scrivano said. "We are miles away from them. It isn't close. We need to get better for us to beat them. There were matches we could have done better. Bottom line we aren't good enough. Stanford is better than us. There's not much else to say."
Stanford freshman Kristie Ahn was forced to retire from her match at No. 4 singles with an ankle injury that had been bothering her. She played for the first time in three weeks Sunday and was losing when the match ended.
"We are going to do everything we can to get people ready," Forood said. "It's important to have at least seven players consistently playing during the season. You can't expect to go through the season without something happening."
This time Ahn was an early casualty, ending her 24-match winning streak. She won the Pac-10 singles championship on May 1, her last appearance before Sunday's quarterfinals.
"All I saw was that her score was not moving so I figured something happened," Burdette said. "I wasn't really paying attention to that. I was taking care of my own match. We weren't expecting much from her and we're going to keep taking it step by step."
The point evened the match for the Bears as Stanford won the doubles point when Li and Nicole Gibbs grabbed an 8-6 win at No. 2 doubles moments after Tan and Carolyn McVeigh dropped their match at No. 3.
"We got off 3-1; we were in position that we dream of, and it was my serve," Baylor's Jelena Stanivuk said. "We usually win those matches. They came up with some great shots. The percentage of my first serve was not good and I think it cost us big time. The crowd started getting into it and it was hard to break them again. Taylor and I should have done a better job. We're the seniors and we put ourselves in a great position. We just didn't close it."
It didn't really matter with the way the rest of the singles were playing. Gibbs and Barte split their first two sets and both appeared to be on the way back to victory when the match ended.