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