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W. Tennis: Sweet 16th

Underdog story: The Stanford women’s tennis team was the number eight seed in the NCAA team championships, but defeated three higher-seeded teams en route to its first championship in four years. The Cardinal came from behind to beat No. 3 Florida yesterday in the national championships, winning four games to three. (Courtesy of Bill Kallenberg)

Card beats Florida 4-3, claims 16th NCAA Championship

A senior’s long fight for her team came to a fruitful end as Lindsay Burdette was able to lead the No. 8 Stanford women’s tennis team to its first NCAA championship in four years — and the program’s 16th NCAA championship — with a nail-biting defeat of No. 3 Florida 4-3 in the championship match.

“It was really scary out there,” Lindsay Burdette said. “I stayed on [sister] Mallory’s court and she fought so hard. I was trying to be that calming force for her, but it was really tough for me to stay calm. We came so far, we laid it out there, and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Stanford’s Mallory Burdette reacts after winning her game in the NCAA national chamapionship final against Florida’s Marrit Boonstra. After splitting the first two sets, Burdette found herself down 5-4 in the third, but came back to win the set and give Stanford a 4-3 victory for the title. (Courtesy of Bill Kallenberg)

For the second time in as many days and only the third time all year, Stanford dropped the doubles point after spirited play from the Gators. Mallory Burdette and Stacey Tan were first off with a demoralizing 8-1 defeat. Stanford was able to tie it with strong play from its No. 1 team of Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette, recording an 8-4 victory. On court three, Stanford’s Carolyn McVeigh and Veronica Li were leading 5-4 before being broken. The Cardinal dropped the final two games to give Florida the 1-0 lead going into singles play.

“They came out very strong in doubles,” said head coach Lele Forood. “They played better than we did in the doubles, but in the singles, we came out well in five spots. They clawed their way back though and that’s what they do. They’re all about battling and staying in it and doing what it takes.”

Stanford did indeed start well in the singles. The Card managed to win the first set in five out of the six matches. Tan ran away with her match, heading out to a 3-1 lead in the second set before closing out and earning Stanford’s first point 6-2, 6-2. Li proved her resiliency again by coming back from 3-0 down in the first set to win her match 6-3, 7-5.

But it proved to be the Burdette sisters that pushed Stanford through. Senior Lindsay Burdette was second off the court after breaking out of a 3-3 tie to run away with her match, 6-3, 6-3. After being forced to a third set, Mallory Burdette started well too. She raced out to a 2-0 lead, but was broken right back and found herself down 3-2. Mallory broke again to go ahead 4-3, but her opponent, No. 65 Marrit Boonstra, broke back. Mallory found herself in a 5-4 hole and struggling to stay in the match. She fought for the final break and then raced out to a 40-0 lead on her serve before finally serving it out.

“I was beyond nervous,” Mallory Burdette said. “The girl was playing really well, especially there in the middle of the third set. The biggest thing at the end was that I couldn’t be afraid to lose. I tried to focus on myself, move forward and stop worrying about losing.”

After the final point, her racket went in the air and older sister Lindsay was the first one there, tackling Mallory with the rest of the Stanford team in celebration of an NCAA championship.

“Coming here to Stanford, I wanted the championship more for Lindsay than I did for myself,” Mallory Burdette said. “She’s worked so hard, done so much for the team, and just come up short the past three years. She played unbelievable today though. She had done her part and I knew it was time to do mine.”

Forood has been there with Lindsay through the entire ride and was amazed at the depths to which she was able to reach in her final few college matches to pull out some of the best performances of her career.

“She’s been such a consistent performer for four years,” Forood said. “Her singles has had some real ups and downs, which she’ll be the first to admit, but the point is she played her best at the end. And boy, doesn’t everybody in their athletic career want to make that statement. The fact that she was able to will herself to play her best tennis here, it’s unbelievable to me.”

So the Cardinal heads into the singles and doubles tournament with the NCAA team crown for the first time in Lindsay Burdette’s Stanford career. Her hard work and dedication have paid off in the most deserving way, but a championship title isn’t all she’ll take from her time with the team.

“Singing together in the locker room,” Lindsay Burdette said,” before we even went out there today. We were singing our team songs, hanging out, getting ready and getting our grips on, our shoes on, tennis strings all over the place. That was probably my favorite memory. I couldn’t think of any better way to prepare for a national championship match.”