May 30, 2011
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STANFORD, CA – Josipa Bek and Keri Wong clawed their way to the 2011 NCAA Women’s Tennis Doubles Championship match, but fell just short in their attempt to knock off a third top-four team in as many days on Monday in Stanford, CA. The 5-8 seeded Tigers fell, 7-6(6), 6-0 to Stanford’s Mallory Burdette and Hilary Barte, the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament in the Final.
The Tigers made a big, first-set comeback, but ultimately could not get over the hump against the home team.
“It was a great atmosphere, and it took us time to find our rhythm with their crowd,” said Bek.
“I don’t really think the crowd affected our play once we started going, but I think it helped them,” echoed Wong.
Despite the loss, it caps one of the most decorated seasons by any doubles team in school history. Bek and Wong reached all three major doubles championship finals, and held the nation’s top ranking for more than a month, the first such Clemson duo to hold the distinction.
They defeated two different national No. 1 doubles teams, and ousted the No. 2 and No. 3 overall seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
With the loss, the Tiger tandem falls to 34-11, surpassing the previous doubles team record of 29 wins in a single season. Bek’s 40 and Wong’s 39 overall doubles wins (with other partners) this year rank one and two, respectively, in the Clemson annals.
Bek and Wong have been away from Clemson since May 11, as they have been out since the first and second rounds of the team tournament on May 14 and 15 in Fayetteville, AR. The team advanced to the Sweet 16 in Stanford, CA, falling to eventual national champion Florida on May 20. Both Bek and Wong competed in the singles portion, with Wong falling to the 2010 Champion, and Bek retiring due to injury in the first set against the 2011 Runner-Up.
“It has been a long journey,” said Bek, who appeared in her third career singles and doubles tournament. “I know how long these trips could be, and I’m happy we made it this far. I like it here but it I’m ready to get back to Clemson.”
The 2011 Doubles Championship caps a successful season for the Tigers, who went 21-11 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons, and saw Clemson reach the Final Eight of the Team National Indoor Championships, a first in school history. Both Bek and Wong were named to the All-ACC team, and each will be named a doubles All-American. Bek also garners singles All-America honors, becoming the first six-time All-American in Clemson women’s tennis history.
“This has been a great year for Clemson, and we have taken some big steps,” said Head Coach Nancy Harris. “I think we’ve made Clemson very proud. It says a lot about Clemson tennis and what we’re trying to do. Our girls have made us really proud, and I hope they are setting the example that future Tigers want to follow.”
The first set featured several key momentum swings as two of the best doubles teams in the country squared off for every point. Stanford took a quick, 2-0 edge after breaking Wong, but Clemson answered right back with a break of Barte and a hold of their own, knotting it at 2-2. Stanford then appeared to grab the set by the horns, reeling off the next three games to take a big, 5-2 advantage going in to Bek’s serve.
But Clemson was not ready to lay down, fighting back to hold for 5-3, and then break Burdette to get back on serve. Wong then held to knot the match at 5-5, and each held serve again to force a tiebreak.
“We played every point so hard, and we got the comeback, but didn’t seize the opportunity when we had the tiebreak,” said Bek.
Stanford nabbed the first point before the Tigers roared back with the next six, taking a 6-1 lead, and looked to be cruising to the set victory. But Stanford again fought back, winning seven consecutive points and winning the tiebreaker, 8-6.
The Cardinal clearly rode the momentum into the second set, as the Tigers looked to try and slow things down. Stanford refused to get into long rallies, as the aggressive nature of both groups made for some quick points. The Cardinal duo ran out to a 5-0 lead in the set behind three service breaks. Clemson looked like they might break through in the sixth game, but Stanford would fight off two break points, and went on to win the set, 6-0.
Barte successfully defended her Doubles Title, as she won in 2010 with Burdette’s older sister, Lindsay. Barte, a junior, and Burdette, a sophomore, will both be around next season, and look to be one of the top tandems in the nation again, along with Bek and Wong.
Head Coach Nancy Harris “I really thought we outplayed them in the first set and we were very calm and focused, and didn’t give many points away, and had a good game plan. I think at the point where we went up 6-1, our girls didn’t stay aggressive, and we gave a couple points away, and they didn’t give us any points in that tiebreak.
“With the momentum shift, it was very tough for our girls. They really went after us and ripped some returns, and took some chances, and they paid off.
“In the second set, our girls never really regained composure, and when we did, it was a little too late to overcome. Hopefully we take away some really great lessons. They played with such courage and brilliant play.
“Of all the teams we play, it was a reflection of our team in the aggressiveness. In the end, Stanford didn’t give points away and we did.
“This team really had a magnificent year, and made three grand slams, and I think one of the best teams that’s been around in a long time, and was big for the game. We are obviously disappointed, but they did a great job in the second set. We have to congratulate them, and we have to go back and look at what we need to do differently.
“I think we’re all ready to get home. We’re running out of clean clothes. We’re all ready to see our families, and I am looking forward to a great summer. Once camps are over, we get back to preparing for the next year. There’s no bigger national Championship than the ones that Stanford hosts. We’ve had a lot of great memories and seen a lot of great tennis.
“This has been a great year for Clemson, and we have taken some big steps. We’ve made Clemson very proud. I think it says a lot about Clemson tennis and what we’re trying to do. Our girls have made us really proud, and I hope they are setting the example that future Tigers want to follow.
“Clemson gives us a great opportunity to do what we love, and we are very excited about the future of Clemson Tennis.”
Josipa Bek “We went out there and played our best. The second set we went out really aggressive, and they did also, and they were able to take advantage of some of our mistakes.”
“We went out there and we tried to play our best every point. It was a great atmosphere, and it took us time to find out rhythm with their crowd. We played every point so hard, and we got the comeback, but didn’t seize the opportunity when we had the tiebreak.
“It has been a long journey. I know how long these trips could be, and I’m happy we made it this far. I like it here but it I’m ready to get back to Clemson.”
Keri Wong “I think we tried to put more balls in play, and missed a couple. I was more nervous because of the crowd, not really playing the opponent. I don’t really think the crowd affected our play once we started going, but I think it helped them.
“I think it will be different next year, but hopefully better. I think I accomplished a lot of my personal goals. We realized we could hang with these great teams in the fall, and this was one we knew we had a good chance of doing well. My goals this year relied a lot on doubles.”
NCAA Doubles Championships Taube Tennis Center – Stanford, CA
First Round – Stadium Court 3 – May 26, 2011 (5-8) #6 Bek Wong (CU) def. #38 Boxx/Guthrie (MISS), 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Round of 16 – Stadium Court 6 – May 27, 2011 (5-8) #6 Bek/Wong (CU) def. #18 Pluskota/Boren (TENN), 6-1, 6-7(8), 7-6(1)
Quarterfinals – Stadium Court 6 – May 28, 2011 (5-8) #6 Bek/Wong (CU) def. (2) #2 Cercone/Will (FLA), 6-2, 7-5
Semifinals – Stadium Court 5 – May 29, 2011 (5-8) #6 Bek/Wong (CU) def. (3) #4 Sanchez/Christian (USC), 6-4, 6-4
Finals – Stadium Court 1 – May 30, 2011 (4) #3 Barte/Burdette (STAN), def. (5-8) #6 Bek/Wong (CU), 7-6(6), 6-0
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