ATHENS, Ga.- After losing the doubles point for only the second time this year, Stanford was suddenly in an unfamiliar spot: trailing in a match 1-0.
But thanks to some dominant play at the top of the singles lineup, the Cardinal finds itself back in a very familiar setting: playing for the national championship.
Hilary Barte provided the clincher for the second straight day, defeating Kristy Frilling 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 1 spot to propel No. 8 Stanford past No. 6 Notre Dame 4-1 on Monday afternoon in the semifinal round of the 2010 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships.
The most storied program in NCAA women's tennis history, Stanford (25-1, 8-0 Pac-10) will play for its 16th national championship overall and first since 2006 on Tuesday in a match that begins at 11 a.m. PT and will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The contest will also be aired on a tape-delay basis on Tuesday from 7:30-9 p.m. PT on ESPN2.
Stanford will square off against No. 3 Florida (29-2, 11-0 SEC), a 4-0 winner over No. 2 North Carolina in Monday's other semifinal. The Cardinal and Gators will be meeting in the national championship match for the eighth time overall, with Stanford owning a 5-2 edge in those contests. The two schools last hooked up in the title match in 2003, with Florida prevailing 4-3 in Gainesville.
Long considered the elite program in women's tennis, Stanford leads all schools with 15 NCAA titles and the Cardinal won three in a row from 2004-06 and seven of the last 13 overall.
But Monday's appearance in the national semifinals was Stanford's first since 2007. That brief hiatus, in addition to being this year's lowest seed remaining in the semifinal draw, may have even been enough to label Stanford as the underdog.
However, Stanford is riding an 18-match winning streak since suffering its only loss of the year back on Feb. 26 (a 6-1 defeat at UCLA). In fact, The Cardinal upset No. 1 Baylor 4-2 in the quarterfinals to reach Monday's match. Those credentials, along with a rich tradition that is unmatched by any other program, make Stanford a dangerous threat to claim the hardware.
Notre Dame (26-4, 7-0 Big East) found that out the hard way on Monday.
Things looked promising early on for the Fighting Irish, joining UCLA as the only teams to win the doubles point in a match against Stanford this year. Notre Dame's No. 2 team of Cosmina Ciobanu and Shannon Mathews turned a 3-0 deficit into an 8-3 victory to complete the first doubles match. But Stanford battled back to claim an 8-4 win on court three from Veronica Li and Carolyn McVeigh.
The doubles point was decided at the No. 1 spot between the nation's second-ranked duo of Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette of Stanford and the country's third-ranked team of Kristy Frilling and Kali Krisik. Tied at 3-3, 5-5 and 6-6, Frilling and Krisik held on for the final two games and an 8-6 victory.
Trailing 1-0, Stanford would need to come up big in singles.
That's exactly what happened, with the Cardinal taking first sets on five courts.
Mallory Burdette demolished Chrissie McGaffigan 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 3 spot, tying the match at 1-1. McGaffigan finally won a game in the second set at 2-1, snapping an incredible streak of 16 consecutive games won by Burdette dating back to a 4-2 deficit against Baylor's Taylor Ormond on Saturday night.
Lindsay Burdette followed with an overpowering 6-1, 6-2 win over Mathews at the No. 2 position, putting Stanford in front 2-1.
Stacey Tan booked a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Ciobanu at the No. 4 spot, placing Stanford on the brink of clinching the match at 3-1.
Over on the back courts, Li had rallied to win a first-set tiebreaker at No. 6 while McVeigh came up short 6-4 in her first set on court five.
But those matches ended up being suspended, because Barte was cruising along at the No. 1 spot. After winning the first set 6-4, Barte jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the second set and held on for a 6-4 victory.
The last time Stanford lost the doubles point but won the match was Mar. 7, 2009 against California, when the Cardinal claimed a 4-3 victory thanks to Jessica Nguyen's thrilling three-setter ... This year marks the fifth time that the NCAA Championships have taken place in Athens. Aside from its semifinal finish in 2007, the Cardinal has fared very well. Stanford won it all in 2005 (4-0 over Texas), 2004 (4-1 over UCLA) and was the runner-up in 1994 to host Georgia ... Hilary Barte picked up her 99th career singles victory on Monday ... Stanford's 25 wins are the most since a 30-0 finish in 2006 ... Lele Forood is now 258-16 in 10 seasons at the helm ... Stacey Tan picked up her first victory in over a month. Tan defeated Cal's Kasia Siwosz in the round of 16 at the Pac-10 Championships on Apr. 22 and had yet to finish a match in the postseason ... Stanford is now 114-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament ... Meetings have been rare between these two squads, with Notre Dame claiming a 4-3 victory on Feb. 13, 2009, at the National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wis. Stanford won the doubles point and led 3-1 in that match before Notre Dame rallied back for the win.
1) No. 3 Frilling/Krisik (ND) d. No. 2 Barte/L. Burdette (STAN) 8-6
2) Ciobanu/Mathews (ND) d. No. 56 M. Burdette/Tan (STAN) 8-3
3) Li/McVeigh (STAN) d. McGaffigan/Rafael (ND) 8-4
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1
1) No. 4 Hilary Barte (STAN) d. No. 16 Kristy Frilling (ND) 6-4, 6-4
2) No. 83 Lindsay Burdette (STAN) d. No. 108 Shannon Mathews (ND) 6-1, 6-2
3) No. 33 Mallory Burdette (STAN) d. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND) 6-0, 6-1
4) No. 86 Stacey Tan (STAN) d. Cosmina Ciobanu (ND) 6-2, 6-4
5) Kali Krisik (ND) led Carolyn McVeigh (STAN) 6-4, 2-3, susp.
6) Veronica Li (STAN) led Kristen Rafael (ND) 7-6 (4), 2-2, susp.
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 4, 1
THEY SAID IT:
Head coach Lele Forood
General thoughts on the match.
"It has been a few years for us, so we are delighted to be back here. Notre Dame took it to us in doubles and did a good job. But we knew that wasn't end-of-story. We have confidence in who we are and how we play, and that was evident in singles."
Talking about the play of Mallory Burdette this season. The freshman has been a serious weapon, leading the club with 36 overall wins.
"She is a great competitor who goes about her singles play very business-like. She has been just as solid in doubles with Stacey (Tan), as that has been a good team for us at the No. 2 spot."
Senior Lindsay Burdette
Struggling for much of the later part of the season, Burdette steamrolled her opponent in a 6-1, 6-2 win.
"It's been awhile since I came out like that against a good player and just stayed solid throughout the entire match. I was really proud that I could do that today."
Stanford's last national title came in 2006, one year before Burdette arrived as a freshman. Tomorrow she gets a chance to play for a championship.
"When I first came to Stanford, I thought this would be how it was every year: playing in the national championship match. But I've learned a valuable lesson because that has not been the case. It really requires everyone putting in their maximum effort. Today sitting up here, and being able to play tomorrow for a title, it's all worth it."
Junior Hilary Barte
After losing the doubles point, talking about the team's mindset.
"When we came into the lockerroom, we all knew there would be a lot of work ahead of us. Everyone just went out there, and took their courts fired up to play. I was blown away at how well Mal and Linds came out, and that inspired me to pick up my game."
Freshman Mallory Burdette
Notre Dame's Chrissie McGaffigan didn't stand a chance against Mallory Burdette today, who won another lop-sided match.
"She is a good player, but today I felt like this was a good matchup for me. I struggled in doubles, so it felt good to bring home that first point and tie the match at 1-1. Hopefully that got other people on a roll too. Lindsay and I were talking out there on the court between points, trying to get each other fired up and encouraged."