by Keith Peters
It was only moments after her victory in the 1997 NCAA singles final when Stanford freshman Lilia Osterloh grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd at the Taube Family Tennis Center. She thanked everyone for turning out and supporting her, then added that she hoped to see everyone next year.
However, the next time Osterloh returns to the Stanford tennis courts, it won't be as a member of the Cardinal's defending national championship team.
"She's turned pro," said Frank Brennan, head coach of the Stanford women's team. "She said she accomplished everything she wanted to in college tennis. I guess we're a victim of our own success."
Osterloh confirmed Brennan's report on Saturday.
"It was a hard decision to make," Osterloh said from her home in Canal Winchester, Ohio. "Tennis-wise at Stanford, I had accomplished everything that I wanted. It was time to move on. I'll always remember Stanford, and I hope to continue my education there in the future. I had a great time there."
While Osterloh has decided to turn pro, she's still an amateur as of this moment.
"I haven't accepted any money and I haven't signed with anyone," Osterloh said Saturday. "(But) the next tournament I play in, I'll accept prize money."
That could be at the U.S. Open next month. Osterloh had planned on playing in the Bank of the West Classic, which runs July 21-27 at Stanford. She was going to receive a wild-card berth in the main draw and get the opportunity to compete against the likes of 1997 Wimbledon champ Martina Hingis and Monica Seles, both of whom head the field.
Osterloh, however, underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on her hip last week and will be sidelined indefinitely.
"The doctor said these injuries don't heal very quickly," Osterloh said. "It will take some time and some rest. I'll have to cut back on my training."
That means Osterloh likely won't make her pro debut until the U.S. Open in New York.
"That's my main goal, to be healthy for the U.S. Open," she said. "That's why I decided not to play at Stanford. I wanted to be able to give it 100 percent at the U.S. Open."
Brennan called Osterloh last Friday to check a report that she was having an MRI done on her knee. Brennan figured that was good news, that a minor injury would force his No. 1 singles player to rest most of the summer and keep her professional plans on hold.
"If we can get her back next year, that would help us immeasurably," Brennan said before calling Osterloh. A short while later, all that changed.
"I got her dad. He said she'd just gone out the door to get an MRI on her hip," Brennan related. "She called back and we chatted about her hip. Then she told me, 'Coach, I'm ready to move on.' Her mind was made up. I just wished her well and told her, 'You're in the (Stanford tennis) family now, so come back and visit when you can.'"
Brennan said he wasn't shocked by the news. He's been answering questions about Osterloh's pro future ever since May when she helped Stanford win the NCAA team crown and then went on to dominate Florida freshman M.C. White, 6-1, 6-1, in the national singles final.
"She did great for us; she did everything," Brennan said.
Both Brennan and his assistant, Lele Forood, talked with Osterloh following the NCAA tournament--hoping to convince their freshman star to return for at least one more season and defend her title.
"We gave it our best shot," Brennan explained. "It wasn't like we had our heads in the sand and expected her to return."
With Osterloh leaving, Stanford suddenly is without three key members of its championship team following the graduation of seniors Katie Schlukebir and Sandra De Silva.
"We go from possible repeat to a rebuilding year," Brennan said. "It hits us pretty hard."
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