The Stanford men’s tennis team picked up a big win on Saturday at the Taube Family Tennis Center, defeating archrival Cal 6-1. Playing in front of a large crowd filled with many parents for the annual Parents’ Weekend, the No. 9 Cardinal did not disappoint, satisfying the crowd with its decisive victory.
With the victory, Stanford improved to 9-4 on the season and seems to have recovered from early stumbles against USC, UCLA and, most surprisingly, Fresno State, who all managed to defeat Stanford at the Taube Family Tennis Center. The Cardinal is coming off of two straight impressive weekends of play: last weekend at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, when the squad defeated No. 7 Baylor and No. 6 Kentucky, and then this weekend at home where it beat up on No. 10 Cal.
Not surprisingly, this recent stretch of good play has coincided with the return of senior All-American Bradley Klahn to the lineup. Klahn had been out for the beginning of the season with an unpredictable back ailment, and his return a couple of weeks ago has clearly buoyed the team.
“If we have everybody healthy we’re a pretty good team — and we’ve shown that even when we don’t have everybody healthy we’re still a pretty good team,” head coach John Whitlinger said. “But it obviously helps when you have an NCAA champion back in your lineup, as it really lengthens it out and makes everyone else that much better.”
The health and improvement of the whole team showed on Saturday as the Cardinal led right from the start, when the dynamic doubles duo of Klahn and fellow senior Ryan Thacher disposed of the nation’s No. 4 doubles team of Nick Andrews and Christopher Konigsfeldt, 8-4. Their win was shortly followed with a victory from juniors Dennis Lin and Matt Kandath, who edged Riki McLachlan and Andrew Scholnick to secure the pivotal doubles point for Stanford.
Whitlinger’s recent strategy of pairing up players from the same year in the doubles has proved to be very effective, as the Cardinal has yet to drop a doubles point since Klahn’s return. The return of Klahn has enabled this lineup switch, as now Whitlinger can pair his two seniors on the top court, his two juniors on the second and his two freshmen phenoms, John Morrissey and Robert Stineman, on the third.
Those freshmen were once again instrumental in securing the victory, as they both dispatched of their singles opponents on courts five and six, with Stineman providing the victory-clinching fourth point for Stanford. Whitlinger has been amazed and impressed with the high level of play of his two freshmen all year long.
The Cardinal will now look to build on its burgeoning momentum as the team continues to adapt to the return of Klahn and the new structure of the lineup. Perhaps unfortunately for Whitlinger’s squad, the team now has a 10-day break from match play, as it will compete in the annual Pacific Coast Doubles Championship this weekend in La Jolla before ending this quarter’s play against Yale on March 10 at Taube.