A shocking reversal of fortune

Florida ends Stanford's 184-match home winning streak in NAA championships match

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Mallory Burdette has been in the spotlight several times during her young tennis career and there's no faulting her effort during the clinching point of Florida's stunning 4-3 victory over Stanford in the championship match of the NCAA women's team tennis tournament Tuesday night at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.

Burdette was the aggressor all night against Lauren Embree, who played steady and unspectacular the whole way to help the Gators (31-1) avenge their only loss of the season and win their first national title in eight years. For the third time in eight championship meetings against the Cardinal (28-1), Florida came out the winner.

"I had my game plan and I executed it pretty well for the most part," Burdette said. "I'm proud of the way I played. It just came down to two points and I came up short."

There was precious little talk of Stanford's incredible 184-match home winning streak coming to an end. There was just Burdette, shoulders slumped and head down walking off the court as her final shot went long.

"We knew it's not going to keep going into infinity," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "We'll just start over again. The streak doesn't mean a whole lot to us. It's interesting but it's trivia. We tend to think in the short term, the year to year happenings. There are always different players, different circumstances."

The Cardinal have still managed to win 234 of its past 236 matches at home dating to 1995.

Stanford didn't necessarily lose the title on Court 2, or anywhere else. Florida just won it, taking advantage of an ankle injury to Cardinal freshman Kristie Ahn to win at No. 5 and No. 6 singles and setting the stage for an epic battle at No. 2 singles.

"It's hard to lose an impact player like her but I felt comfortable with the people we put on the court," Forood said. "I feel like we can get four points on anybody."

The Gators also won the doubles point, taking it to Stanford right away and winning convincingly.

Embree, who played No. 1 singles last year, was ahead 5-1 in the first set before Burdette won seven straight games to snatch the set away. Embree, who won her 24th consecutive match, was in control of the second set.

Burdette went up 4-0 in the third set and Embree rallied to win five straight games and was at double match point before Burdette rallied to take the game and then send it to the tie-breaker.

Burdette faced a 6-4 deficit before winning the next two points. Then she missed a sure winner and sent the next one long, ending the four-hour, seven-minute marathon.

Hilary Barte gave Stanford its first point at No.1 singles, beating Allie Will, 6-2, 6-4. Nicole Gibbs gave the Cardinal the lead, 2-1, with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Sofie Oyen at No. 3 singles.

Stacey Tan recovered from a first set loss to beat Joanna Mather, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 4 singles and give Stanford a 3-1 edge but Alex Cercone returned the favor at No. 5 singles, beating Veronica Li, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 as Florida closed to within 3-2.

Olivi Janowicz's 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 win over Carolyn McVeigh at No. 6 singles to tie it.

"That was the most electric atmosphere I have ever experienced in my college career," Forood said. "It was a great day. We just came up a little short."

Long before the women wrapped up, the USC men successfully defended their NCAA title with a 4-3 victory over top-ranked Virginia.

NCAA Women's All-Tournament Team

No. 1 Singles: Hilary Barte, Stanford

No. 2 Singles: Lauren Embree, Florida

No. 3 Singles: Nicole Gibbs, Stanford

No. 4 Singles: Jelena Staivuk, Baylor

No. 5 Singles: Alex Cercone, Florida

No. 6 Singles: Carolyn McVeigh, Stanford

No. 1 Doubles: Hilary Barte/Mallory Burdette, Stanford

No. 2 Doubles: Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, Florida

No. 3 Doubles: Diana Nakic/Sona Novakova, Baylor

Most Outstanding Player: Lauren Embree, Florida

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Like this comment
Posted by Jon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I'm not certain "shocking" is the right description. With score tied at 3-3 Florida won a 3rd set tie breaker 8-6. That's about as close as you can get things. Last year Stanford won the other way. These were 2 good good teams battling hard and one of them just won. Great fun to watch though.

Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm

"Shocking" probably refers to the fact that Stanford had its 184-match home court streak ended and that most figured Stanford would win on its home was shocking, especially having not lost at home in more than 12 years. All you had to do was look at the Stanford players after the match....they were in shock. The writer was there, saw that and wrote it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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