Starving off a near spectacular comeback, No. 8 Stanford Cardinal women’s tennis (26-1) captured the 2010 NCAA National Championship with a 4-3 defeat of the No. 3 Florida Gators (29-3) on Tuesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.
The Gators were just two individual games away from defeat but battled back to force third sets in two singles matches while the Cardinal held a 3-2 lead. Florida sophomore Joanna Mather took down Stanford’s Carolyn McVeigh 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 in the second-to-last match, tying the score 3-3 and leaving the title in the hands of the final two competitors – senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra and No. 33 Mallory Burdette
After losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with Burdette by winning the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, Boonstra pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead. However, she ended up losing her final three games, allowing Burdette to tie it up and eventually reign victorious 7-5.
“My heart just aches for Marrit,” Gators head coach Ron Thornqvist said after the loss. “She has given this program everything she has. It’s just not fair for it to come down to a result like this for her. She’s going to be hurting for a long time. Our players will echo when I say that they love her for all she has done for them and how she gives them her heart. Marrit gave herself a chance in the match, leading 5-4 and was playing good tennis. It seemed like Mallory relaxed at 5-all and I thought that was the difference.”
The Gators won the doubles point with victories from the No. 29 duo of freshman Lauren Embree and Mather as well as the pair of freshman Carolina Hitimana and senior Anastasia Revzina. However, Florida’s No. 5-ranked team of Boonstra and freshman Allie Will uncharacteristically fell 8-4 to No. 2 Hilary Barte and Lindsay Brudette.
In singles action, No. 9 Embree held No. 4 Barte set-less with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Mather joined her with a singles win, but No. 8 Will (6-3, 6-3), Boonstra, No. 102 Revzina (6-2, 6-2) and No. 107 Hitimana (6-3, 7-5) were all out-matched by Stanford.
“That was probably one of the better matches I’ve been involved with in a match of this magnitude,” Thornqvist reflected. “I thought we played terrific in doubles all year and today was no different. For some reason, we got off to a slow start in singles. It looked really grim there for a while, but just like we talked about all year long, we were resilient. I really thought our team showed tremendous courage, heart and pride. In the end we came up short, but I was really, really proud of our effort and our play in a championship round like this. Stanford played at a high level from the beginning of the match. In the first 20 minutes of singles, balls were whipping past us left and right. For us to slow that down and use our athleticism and neutralize some of that pace was great.”
The Gators women will now break apart from the team and compete in singles and doubles for individual NCAA National Championships beginning on Wednesday. Embree and Will are set to represent Florida in singles action, while Will/Boonstra and Embree/Revzina will pair in the doubles draw.
With the victory, the Cardinal captures their 16th title in 29 years and first over the Gators. Florida and Stanford squared off in the 2003 championship match with the Gators winning 4-3, but the Cardinal began their revenge with a 4-0 semifinal victory in 2006, the last time the two teams had faced until Tuesday.
Photo/Quote Credits: University of Florida