Back on the court for just the second time since Feb. 12, the Stanford women’s tennis team was in sore need for some match play. However, no visible signs of rust were on display on Wednesday afternoon at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, with pent-up energy carrying the Cardinal to a blowout 7-0 victory over the University of San Francisco. Two matches meant to take place this past weekend against Cal Poly and San Diego were postponed, and yesterday’s match against USF was added to the schedule to make up for the gap.
“I definitely came out to a slow start today,” sophomore Nicole Gibbs said. “I think that’s exactly why we scheduled this match, because we didn’t want that kind of lull in our schedule before a big weekend with Cal and Washington. A couple of us were a little rusty.”
Doubles highlighted the dominance of junior Mallory Burdette and Gibbs at the top as they sprinted to an 8-0 win. The pairings of junior Stacey Tan and freshman Ellen Tsay, followed by sophomore Kristie Ahn and senior Veronica Li, both won by identical 8-3 scores.
Stanford (6-0, 1-0 Pac-12) was rarely challenged against USF (2-5) in singles. The closest set came between Burdette and opponent senior Julia Wartenburger. Burdette won 6-4, but this came after she was flawless in the first set for the 6-0, 6-4 win in the end. At the top of the lineup, Gibbs won 6-1, 6-3, noting that she struggled a bit in the second set.
“The challenge was in the conditions today–the weather was sub-optimal,” Gibbs said. “There were a lot of potential rain delays that didn’t end up happening. It started to sprinkle a little bit, and it was super windy. A few of us took a little bit of time to adjust and to get through unconventional and awkward points.”
At the bottom half of the lineup, Tsay and Li both only gave up one game to record identical 6-0, 6-1 victories. Junior Natalie Dillon, in her fourth match this season, put up an impressive performance with a 6-1, 6-1 win over junior Blair Reed to record her first match win on the year.
“It feels great,” said Dillon. “I think it was a little difficult for me coming back from being abroad, but it’s good to get the experience. I’m taking each match seriously and working up for NCAAs.”
In addition to last minute schedule changes, the Cardinal, who entered the week ranked No. 1, was dropped to No. 11 in the ITA’s most recently released rankings, which were compiled by computer for the first time this season. Stanford and Florida had shared the top two spots all season, with the Cardinal overtaking the Gators for the top spot in a 5-2 victory on Feb. 12. However, the new rankings caused a major upheaval, with both squads dropping out of the top 10. Stanford came in ranked No. 11 despite being undefeated, and the Gators, who were ranked No. 2 entering the week, are now ranked No. 15.
“There had been all this mini-drama over the ITA rankings putting us at 11, which we find kind of entertaining,” Gibbs said. “It gives us a bit of a chance to be somewhat of an underdog against Cal, who is ranked seventh currently. It’ll light a fire under us and give us some motivation and drive to show people what we’re made of.”
The top three now consists of No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 USC and No. 3 Duke, and Stanford plays the Los Angeles teams on April 13 and April 14 at home, a key late-season matchup for all three squads.
“We’re looking very seriously at those matches and really preparing to play at our best for that weekend,” Dillon said. “The Pac-12 overall looks very strong. However, the rankings really don’t actively reflect who is at the number one, two and three. They don’t accurately reflect rankings, so as much as their current rankings seem intimidating, we try not to concern ourselves with the ranking system.”
The Cardinal returns to action this Friday against No. 7 Cal in Berkeley.