May 23, 2010

Notebook: Call Her The Closer

By Andy Johnston
Special to

ATHENS, Ga. - Hilary Barte watched her last shot hug the line and then raced toward her teammates, both fists pumping.

Stanford's top singles player had no reason to contain herself after defeating Baylor's Lenka Broosova and lead the Cardinal to a 4-2 upset of the top-seeded Bears and into the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Women's Championship at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on Saturday. Stanford will play No. 5 Notre Dame (27-3) while No. 2 North Carolina (30-4) will play No. 3 Florida (28-2) in the other semifinal.

"I don't think there's words (to describe it)," Barte said. "I guess it really hasn't sunk in yet. I'm glad I could do it for the team."

Barte's 7-5, 7-5 victory extended eighth-seeded Stanford's winning streak to 17 consecutive matches and helped avenge losses to Baylor in the past two national tournaments.

The Bears (30-3), who had their win streak stopped at 24 consecutive matches, eliminated Stanford 4-3 in the Round of 16 last year and 4-1 in the semifinals in 2008.

Now, it's the Cardinal's turn to advance and continue in the
tournament its dominated for the better part of this century. Stanford (24-1), which will play fifth-seeded Notre Dame (26-3) at 2 p.m. Monday, has won five national titles since 2001, including three in a row (2004-06).

"It was a very, very big match for our program," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "It was the team that has taken us out of the last two national championships, and for us to get back where we want to get to, we certainly knew we had to go through Baylor.

"They played really well," she added. "It was as tight as the other ones had been. We were good today. We came out on top."

Barte and Broosova had met in the past two national singles tournaments, with Broosova winning in 2008 and Barte in '09. Barte, a junior, won the first set 7-5, and was aware that the deciding match would be hers since teammate Stacey Tan was trailing Baylor's Csilla Borsanyi in the third set at No. 4 singles.

With her teammates encouraging her from the adjacent court, Barte hit a winner out of the reach of Broosova and turned to them to celebrate.

"I knew she would be playing really well," Barte said. "I know she's a senior, so I knew that she would be laying it on the line, especially for the team."

Baylor was dominant the final part of the season, holding opponents to one point or less since a 4-3 victory over Northwestern on April 9.

The Bears had shut out 11 of their past 12 opponents heading into Saturday's match.

Against Stanford, they lost the doubles point and quickly fell behind at Nos. 3, 4 and 6 singles. Freshman Mallory Burdette, who is from nearby Jackson, Ga., and Veronica Li gave the Cardinal a 3-0 lead.

Victories by Baylor's Nina Secerbegovic at No. 2 and Jelena Stanivuk at No. 5, cut the margin to 3-2, leaving it up to Barte and Broosova on Court 1.

"I choked at the end," Broosova said. "I don't know why. There's no excuse for it. It just happened."

Baylor coach Joey Scrivano said: "They just outplayed us. We just came up short. I'm still in a little bit of shock."

With two freshmen on this year's team, Forood said she didn't use the past two losses to Baylor as motivation for this match.

"People were aware (of those losses)," she said. "We didn't have to press the point too much. With two starters who are new to this year's team, you don't want to overplay it. This is very much a different team and different year."