Stanford Falls To Florida 4-3 In NCAA Championship
STANFORD, Calif.- Lauren Embree's thrilling 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over Mallory Burdette at the No. 2 position lifted Florida to a 4-3 victory over Stanford in the 2011 NCAA championship match on Tuesday night at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
The Gators (31-1) captured their first national title since 2003 and avenged last year's 4-3 national championship loss to Stanford in Athens, Ga.
The Cardinal (28-1) was denied in its attempt to repeat as national champions, while two lengthy streaks were also snapped in the process.
Tuesday's setback was Stanford's first since a 6-1 defeat at UCLA back on Feb. 26, 2010, a stretch of 47 consecutive wins. Additionally, Florida became the first opponent to win a dual match on Stanford's home court since California posted a 5-4 victory back on Feb. 27, 1999. The NCAA-record streak spanned more than 12 seasons, resulted in 184 consecutive wins and featured a pair of national championships (2002, 2006).
Tuesday's title match showcased the country's top two teams. Both squads had taken turns occupying the top spot in the ITA national rankings, with Florida entering the postseason ranked first but seeded second in the draw while Stanford was ranked second yet owned the tourney's No. 1 overall seed. A quirky set-up considering the Cardinal defeated the Gators 4-2 back on Feb. 21 to claim the National Team Indoor Championships crown.
Regardless of ranking or seed, it was clear the nation's top two teams were on display Tuesday night. Playing in front of an electric atmosphere generated by 2,863 fans, Stanford and Florida battled it out in one of the most intense finals in NCAA tennis history.
Playing without 15th-ranked Kristie Ahn (ankle injury) holding down the No. 4 spot, Stanford was forced to adjust the bottom of its lineup and was without the services of a player who entered the match 36-4 overall and 18-1 in duals.
Dramatic momentum swings dominated the match, highlighted by Florida grabbing a critical 1-0 lead following the doubles point before Stanford built a 3-1 advantage and looked to be in the driver's seat.
In the end, it was Embree, one of two players to post a victory during last year's NCAA title match, who secured the victory for Florida. On the other side was Burdette, who last year turned a 5-4 third-set deficit into a 7-5 victory to clinch Stanford's 16th NCAA title.
Florida won the doubles point easily, cruising to 8-3 victories on courts two and three.
Dropping the doubles point for only the fifth time this year, Stanford was on the defensive from the start. But the Cardinal also lost the doubles point in last year's final, so the match was still far from being decided.
Hilary Barte's 6-2, 6-4 victory at the No. 1 spot knotted the match at 1-1. Barte picked up her 30th win of the year and has now surrendered six games or less to her opponent during a five-match winning streak.
Nicole Gibbs notched her team-leading 42nd win of the year, defeating Sofie Oyen 6-4, 7-5 over on court three for a 2-1 Stanford lead.
Stacey Tan outlasted Joanna Mather 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the No. 4 position, pushing Stanford ahead 3-1. Tan was the only Stanford player who failed to claim a first set, so the outcome was looking promising early on for the Cardinal.
But wins at the bottom of the lineup from Alex Cercone (4-6, 6-1, 6-4 over Veronica Li at No. 5) and Olivia Jaowicz (6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 over Carolyn McVeigh at No. 6) helped Florida tie the match again at 3-3.
That left Embree and Burdette slugging in out at the No. 2 spot. Burdette erased a 5-1 first-set deficit, claiming the opening stanza 7-5. Embree then bounced back to take the second set 6-3.
Burdette jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the final set, only to see Embree win five straight games. Burdette then battled her way back before the match went to a tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker featured ties at 2-2, 4-4 and 6-6 before Embree prevailed 8-6, stunning the raucous Stanford crowd.
No. 1 Florida 4, No. 2 Stanford 3
Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3)
1) No. 3 Barte/Burdette (STAN) vs. No. 2 Cercone/Will (FLA) aban.
2) No. 45 Embree/Oyen (FLA) d. Gibbs/Li (STAN) 8-3
3) Hitimana/Mather (FLA) d. No. 74 McVeigh/Tan (STAN) 8-3
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2)
1) No. 3 Hilary Barte (STAN) d. No. 7 Allie Will (FLA) 6-2, 6-4
2) No. 17 Lauren Embree (FLA) d. No. 22 Mallory Burdette (STAN) 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6)
3) No. 18 Nicole Gibbs (STAN) d. No. 91 Sofie Oyen (FLA) 6-4, 7-5
4) No. 43 Stacey Tan (STAN) d. No. 42 Joanna Mather (FLA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
5) No. 54 Alex Cercone (FLA) d. Veronica Li (STAN) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
6) Olivia Janowicz (FLA) d. Carolyn McVeigh (STAN) 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1
No. 1 singles: Hilary Barte, Stanford
No. 2 singles: Lauren Embree, Florida
No. 3 singles: Nicole Gibbs, Stanford
No. 4 singles: Jelena Stanivuk, 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