ATHENS, Ga.- Trailing 5-4 in the third set, Mallory Burdette rattled off three consecutive games to secure a thrilling 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5 victory over Florida's Marrit Boonstra.
When it was all said and done, the freshman from Jackson, Ga., was being mobbed by her teammates on court three, sister and current senior Lindsay had won a national championship in her final career match and the Stanford women's tennis program was once again back on top.
Mallory Burdette's three-set victory clinched a dramatic 4-3 victory for No. 8 Stanford over No. 3 Florida in the national title match on Tuesday afternoon at the 2010 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships.
The most storied program in women's tennis history, Stanford claimed its 16th NCAA championship and first since a dominant three-year title run ended in 2006. The Cardinal was playing in its first title match since defeating Miami 4-1 in 2006 at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
Stanford will host next year's NCAA Championships on both the men's and women's side. But the Cardinal also might not want to leave Athens, which was hosting the NCAA Championships for the fifth time. Aside from a semifinal finish here in 2007, Stanford won it all in 2005 (4-0 over Texas), 2004 (4-1 over UCLA) and was the runner-up in 1994 to host Georgia.
And much of the credit this time around goes to a couple of local girls, with Jackson, Ga., natives Mallory andLindsay Burdette leading the charge and joining oldest sister Erin (four-time All-American from 2002-05) as NCAA team champions at Stanford.
Playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends, Mallory provided the clincher while Lindsay posted impressive singles and doubles victories along the way for Stanford (26-1, 8-0 Pac-10), which closed out the year with 19 straight victories after suffering its only loss of the year back on Feb. 26 (a 6-1 defeat at UCLA).
After cruising through the first three rounds of the postseason with 4-0 shutouts, Stanford knocked off three higher seeded teams (No. 1 Baylor in the quarterfinals, No. 6 Notre Dame in the semifinals and No. 3 Florida in the championship) and continued to look stronger as the tournament moved along.
Despite losing the doubles point for the second straight day and only the third time all year, Stanford once again stormed back to control the match with dominant singles play. Superior depth has traditionally been a critical component during several of Stanford's previous championship seasons, and the formula was no different on Tuesday against Florida (29-3, 11-0 SEC).
The Gators grabbed the early 1-0 lead after some solid doubles play. Even through the first two matches, Florida's No. 3 team of Anastasia Revzina and Caroline Hitimana turned a 5-3 deficit into an 8-6 win over Carolyn McVeigh and Veronica Li.
But just like Monday against Notre Dame, the Cardinal bounced back and took the first set on five different courts.
Stacey Tan was the first to finish, racing past Revzina 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 4 spot and knotting the match at 1-1.
Lindsay Burdette wasted little time in pounding eighth-ranked Allie Will 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 2 position, moving Stanford in front at 2-1. Mired in a month-long slump toward the end of the year, Burdette rebounded impressively during Stanford's final two postseason matches and displayed the type of game that has earned her All-America honors through her first three seasons.
The only court Florida claimed a lead on was at the top spot of the lineup, with Lauren Embree snatching the first set 6-4 from Barte. The Gator freshman was able to close out the match, winning 6-3 in the second set and tying the contest at 2-2. It was just Barte's third loss in the last 14 matches and first in the postseason overall.
Veronica Li then put Stanford on the brink of clinching the match, besting Hitimana 6-3, 7-5 at the No. 6 spot.
The Cardinal led 3-2 at that point, with matches remaining on courts three and five.
With momentum behind her, Joanna Mather outlasted McVeigh 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 to tie the match at 3-3 and deflect all the pressure to court three.
Mallory Burdette had taken the first set 6-4 while Boonstra rallied for a 7-6 (4) victory in the second set. And the momentum appeared to shift once again, with the Florida senior eventually taking a 5-4 lead.
That's when Burdette made her charge, winning three straight games. Boonstra's final shot sailed wide, triggering an on-court celebration highlighted by Lindsay tackling Mallory hard to the ground.
No. 8 Stanford 4, No. 3 Florida 3
1) No. 2 Barte/L. Burdette (STAN) d. No. 5 Boonstra/Will (FLA) 8-4
2) No. 29 Embree/Mather (FLA) d. No. 56 M. Burdette/Tan (STAN) 8-1
3) Hitimana/Revzina (FLA) d. Li/McVeigh (STAN) 8-6
Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3
1) No. 9 Lauren Embree (FLA) d. No. 4 Hilary Barte (STAN) 6-4, 6-3
2) No. 83 Lindsay Burdette (STAN) d. No. 8 Allie Will (FLA) 6-3, 6-3
3) No. 33 Mallory Burdette (STAN) d. No. 65 Marrit Boonstra (FLA) 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5
4) No. 86 Stacey Tan (STAN) d. No. 102 Anastasia Revzina (FLA) 6-2, 6-2
5) Joanna Mather (FLA) d. Carolyn McVeigh (STAN) 5-7, 6-4, 6-0
6) Veronica Li (STAN) d. No. 107 Caroline Hitimana (FLA) 6-3, 7-5
Order of Finish: 4, 2, 1, 6, 5, 3
THEY SAID IT:
Head coach Lele Forood
General thoughts on the match.
"There were so many twists and turns in this match. We lost the doubles point just like yesterday, but we knew we could come back and do it again in singles. It was a roller-coaster. I thought we had the win if Mallory could close out her second set. This was just an epic performance by our entire team and I am extremely proud. We have grown tremendously throughout the year and this is a team that keeps playing and fighting for each other. We just keep finding a way."
On the state of the program.
"These three years have been a huge drought for us. We just haven't had the right combination of factors in previous years and we were searching for the formula. It's very important for us to get back on the map where this program has been. We are back now."
Freshman Mallory Burdette
Talking about clinching the match.
"When I was attacking, she was coming up with great passing shots. I had to just play the point at hand and fight my nerves. My stomach was up here in my neck. It really has not sunk in yet."
Reacting to sister Lindsay tackling her hard to the court.
"It did not hurt as bad as I thought it would. I am going to be very excited to watch the replay though. There were definitely some tears in that huddle, and it felt so great."
Senior Lindsay Burdette
Lindsay had not been part of an NCAA championship team during her career prior to today. She commented on playing with Mallory.
"I had a little better idea of what had to happen for us to be in this position. Mallory came into this year with the desire that she could help us do this. We have always dreamed of this. The most special part for me was staying calm for her and encouraging her through those final games. I was trying to do that, because that's what Erin (oldest sister and four-time All-American at Stanford) does for us to this day."
Lindsay's opponent in singles, Allie Will, entered today's contest undefeated in dual matches.
"I am so proud of the way I played. I had no idea she was on such a winning streak. Players like her hit the ball so heavy and usually give me some problems. So it was great to be able to play well and get the victory."
Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist
Thoughts on the match.
"We probably played a better match than we thought. There were several ups and downs today. We had strong doubles play, but we were off to a slow start in singles. It looked grim at first, but we were resilient. We showed tremendous courage, heart and pride. Stanford is a very talented team. I told our girls to slow down and use their athleticism to neutralize the pace of the matches."
Looking back at the year
"Overall, I thought it was a very successful season. Everyone did everything they could and should do in preparation for this tournament. We cannot let an inch or two here and there determine the success of the entire season. We look upon this season with great pride."
Thoughts on the match
"I am so excited to be a Gator and to be a part of this team. I tried to give it my all, go after every ball and not try to do too much at once."
Thoughts on the match
"During the match, coach came up and told me it was still 4-4 and that I needed to relax, play my game and get up 4-0. When I got to 4-0 again, I knew I needed to focus and put the game away. It is so great to be on this team. We had such a great season and I cannot ask for anything more."