NCAA Files: Unstoppable Stanford
Stanford was able to celebrate perfect seasons in Athens in both 2004 and '05.
May 19, 2017

By John Frierson
UGAAA Staff Writer


(In this series we are taking a look back at memorable NCAA Championships moments in Athens since the event first arrived 45 years ago.)

When the Stanford women's tennis team won the 2004 NCAA Championships in Athens, it was easy to think of it as the end to a glorious perfect season. The Cardinal pretty much thumped everyone in its path all spring and ended up undefeated, dropping only one match in the tournament.

But it wasn't an ending at all. It was the first third of a three-year run that's among the greatest in all of collegiate sports.

Not only did Stanford go undefeated and win it all in 2004, it went undefeated and won it all in 2005, again in Athens. And the Cardinal did it again in 2006, this time winning the title on their home courts in Palo Alto, Calif.

Three straight perfect seasons, three straight NCAA titles and an overall record in that remarkable run of 86-0. The win streak ultimately reached 89 matches before the Cardinal lost in 2007

"We lost the finals in '03 and didn't lose again until '07," Stanford coach Lele Forood said recently. "We had a few different players, but we had a lot of the same players and people just didn't get hurt very much, and so we were able to really sustain quite an impressive win streak."

The season before the streak began, Stanford went 25-2 in 2003, falling to Florida in the national championship match, played in Gainesville. The Cardinal's star freshman, Amber Liu, won the NCAA singles title.

The following spring, Stanford's closest matches were a pair of 5-2 wins. In the NCAAs, the Cardinal defeated UCLA, 4-1, in the final, the lost point the only blemish in its run to the title.

But Liu wasn't done with just the team title. The sophomore had an NCAA singles title to defend, and she did.

"Amber was a professional from the first day she arrived on campus," Forood said. "She had a way that she practiced, she didn't get distracted easily and she just went about her business. One of the best that we've had all-time at that."

Liu wasn't the only star, however. Alice Barnes was the charming Brit that was tough as nails at No. 2 singles, and playing No. 3 was Erin Burdette, the Georgia native whose father, Alan, graduated from UGA in the late '70s.

Stanford again clinched its perfect season with the NCAA title in Athens, but the top-seeded Cardinal had to work a bit harder this time, including a 4-1 win over eighth-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals.

"I think we all knew that was the finals, really," Forood said, "and I think Georgia had had some injuries that had cost them in their seeding. I think we all knew that when healthy we were the two best teams."

Clemson provided an even tougher test in the semis, which Stanford prevailing 4-2. In the final, the Cardinal shut out Texas, 4-0. Burdette, from about 70 miles away from Athens, earned the clinching point.

Liu wasn't able to win a third straight singles title, forced to retire in her first-round match, but she and partner Anne Yelsey did reach the doubles final, where they faced off against the top-seeded duo of Barnes and Burdette. It was Barnes and Burdette that prevailed in the all-Cardinal final.

"They were all outstanding, and not just in singles," Forood said. "They were all really good doubles players, as well."

In 2006, Stanford went 30-0, beating Miami in the national championship match. It was the first three-peat since Stanford, under coach Frank Brennan, won six straight from 1986-91.

As for the win streak, Forood said she doesn't expect to see anything like it anytime soon.

"I don't think it's possible anymore, I really don't," she said. "I think so many things have to be right and I don't think that it can be done again."

John Frierson is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men's Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He's also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.


 

 

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