Seniors John Morrissey and Robert Stineman come to The Farm from Dublin, Ireland, and Winnetka, Ill., respectively. Unlikely college tennis teammates, let alone Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers, they will always share a special bond and have helped put the Cardinal on the doorstep of its first outright Pac-12 title since 2003.
That could happen Saturday, when No. 24 Stanford hosts No. 28 California at Taube Family Tennis Stadium at 2 p.m.
"It would be extraordinary," said Stineman, who along with Morrissey forms Stanford's top doubles team, which is ranked No. 22 nationally. "Especially on Senior Day. It would be a testament to the hard work we've put in the last three years. I'm just excited to get out on that court Saturday and play my heart out."
Morrissey feels the same.
"I don't think you need any more motivation than playing your cross-bay rival," he said. "But I think people are aware of the position we're in. We're trying to focus more on the process. That's what has helped us all year."
First-year head coach Paul Goldstein, Stanford's Taube Family Director of Men's Tennis, has preached that philosophy all season. After a slow start, the Cardinal has ripped off 10 consecutive wins, including a home sweep of conference powerhouses No. 15 UCLA and No. 5 USC last weekend.
"Their leadership has been instrumental to our development," said Goldstein, a four-time All-American at Stanford (1995-98) and the only player in NCAA history to start on four champion teams. "To have two seniors step into that role has been really, really helpful to me and is something I am very grateful for. You could not have better leaders than Robert and John."
Morrissey is majoring in international relations, will begin medical school at the University of Virginia in September and wants to become a surgeon. Stineman is majoring in chemistry, has completed his pre-med requirements and already accepted a consultant job with Bain & Co. to work in Chicago.
"My passion is still medicine," he said. "I'm very interested in getting into the business side and want to get my feet wet in business development."
Morrissey provided the clinching point against the Trojans in No. 2 singles last Saturday.
"Best atmosphere I've ever been a part of here at Stanford," Morrissey said. "Friday, there was even a little tailgate before the UCLA match. A bunch of our friends and students came out and there was so much energy on the court. Coming back Saturday, I thought there was no way it was going to be as good, but it was better."
Added Stineman, "The crowd was definitely raucous. It was just a blast. I don't think I've ever played in front of a crowd that big before. Thanks goes out to our coach and Brandon Coupe (James and Martha Poppy Associate Head Coach) to really revive the community and energy that surrounds Stanford tennis."
Goldstein is very appreciative of the hard work put in by his predecessor, ex-Stanford All-American John Whitlinger, who oversaw the program for the previous 10 years and whose contributions extend back over 40 years, with the 1976 Stanford graduate enjoying success as an associate head coach and student-athlete.
"I think the world of Whit," he said. "I consider him a mentor and friend for life. I didn't recruit one player on this team; it was 100 percent Whit. He created a culture here that has contributed greatly to the Stanford tradition and family."
What Goldstein did was try to take the pressure off his team, especially talented freshmen Tom Fawcett, David Hsu and David Wilczynski.
"I don't want the guys playing with the legacy of all the great Stanford players who have played here in the past," said Goldstein. "We can value the rich Stanford tradition, but at the same time, we're not going to play with the pressure of having the same results as John McEnroe and Mike and Bob Bryan."
Players loved the approach.
"This entire season we really haven't been focusing on outcomes at all," Stineman said. "Our mantra has been process over outcome, so we try our best not to think about rankings or wins and losses. That's just made us a lot looser in practice and matches and made us enjoy the game of tennis to a level I had never been a before. I can't remember when I've loved tennis as much as I do now."
"The team chemistry is great," he said. "The experience and energy that Paul has brought to the program is also phenomenal. We're on a high right now and hope to keep the momentum going."
While very much his own man, Goldstein has also leaned on Dick Gould, the John L. Hinds Director of Tennis, who coached the Cardinal for 38 years, leading the program to 17 NCAA titles.
"I'm not going to try and fill his footsteps," said Goldstein. "But I'm over at his office three times a day asking for advice."
Goldstein honestly didn't expect his team to be in this position, but isn't about to sell it short.
"Maybe it (Pac-12 title) was an oversight on my part," he said. "Now it's sort of staring us in the face, so we're foolish not to acknowledge it. We put ourselves in this position by working our tails off all year. I'm really hopeful our guys can go out there Saturday and execute the way we're capable of doing. I just hope guys can showcase all they've been working on all year to themselves, their teammates, their friends and fans and just enjoy the opportunity to be on stage and perform."