By Will Seaton
Around this time most years, the women of the Stanford tennis program are headed off to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships – but not this year. This year, the women are spending their time on a road trip to Texas, facing opponents they wouldn’t normally play.
Team Indoors has proven to be an up-and-down event for the women. In 2006, they won the tournament by topping the same Texas team they face this weekend, 4-0 . They made the semifinals in 2008, but lost last year in the first round to then-No. 14 Notre Dame. The team decided that this year, the time could be used in a more effective way.
“We’re skipping Indoors because of hassle,” said senior captain Lindsay Burdette. “We wanted to use the time to create more team unity; plus, our conference is plenty good. We didn’t feel the need to go to Wisconsin when we end up playing the Pac-10 anyway.”
Another consideration is the amount of matches played during the season. The NCAA only allows each player to participate in a certain amount of league matches, while the ITA Team Indoors requires that in addition to those main draw matches, each team plays two qualifying matches. By avoiding spending those matches on Indoors, Stanford is able to use them where they want. This year, those extra matches saved are being used to help ease the team into the season.
“Even if things are better this year [than last year], it’s still a great move for us to have a couple matches – big trips like Texas – to kind of get everybody back into the swing of super positive team unity and just get confident again that we’re the best,” Burdette said. “You have to believe it first before you can go out there and show it.”
Indoors can be a little overwhelming for new players. With its high level of competition early in the team’s season, a poor performance can create a bad mindset for the remainder of the year. Last year’s early exit created a poor mindset that hurt the team, but a strong start could have boosted them throughout the rest of the season. Junior Hilary Barte remembers too well her freshman experience at Indoors.
“Indoors is kind of a madhouse,” Barte said. “I know freshman year there was the first time I’d seen the national competition and just kind of what the other top teams look like.”
While a few more games to ease into the season can only help, many of the upperclassmen say that this year’s team vibe is already amazing.
“There is just that extra spark with the team this year,” Burdette said. “It’s really hard to articulate or put your finger on, but it is there. We’re not cocky, but we think we have everything it takes to be number one and take the national championship.”