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W. Tennis: Card doesn’t drop a set in demolition of Santa Clara

The No. 6 women’s tennis team completed its seventh shutout victory in a row on Saturday, defeating Santa Clara 7-0 without any player dropping a set.

Sophomore Nicole Gibbs battled back from a 4-3 second-set deficit to beat Santa Clara's Katie Le 6-2, 6-4. Stanford had a near-perfect match against the Broncos, and didn't drop a single set in the early-morning Saturday matchup. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

Other than the rare decision to play the singles matches first because of a potential scheduling conflict with men’s tennis, everything ran like clockwork for the Cardinal (15-0, 6-0 Pac-12) in its last non-conference match of the season. According to head coach Lele Forood, this match was really about “sharpening up” and having the team “keep playing better and better,” as Stanford will need to be at its best as it prepares for a tough finish to the Pac-12 season that includes a visit from current No. 1 UCLA next Saturday.

Both the 9:30 a.m. start time and having the doubles pushed back created an unusual set of conditions to begin the match. The women usually play in the afternoon, and doubles are normally only played second if there is fear of inclement weather.

The changes did not take their toll on the Cardinal, though, as all the players took early first-set leads.

“[Playing singles first] takes us out of our routine a little,” said sophomore Nicole Gibbs, “but everyone did a really good job of jumping out early.”

Stanford did a much better job than Santa Clara of dealing with the change in match preparation, as the Cardinal’s contingent on the first five courts only lost a combined five games in their first sets. Sophomore Amelia Herring was the exception, as she was pushed to a 7-5 first-set victory on court six in only her third singles match of the year. She found her rhythm after breaking at 6-5 to win the set, though, and was the only Stanford player not to drop a game in her second set.

Gibbs did not have such an easy time with her second set at court one. After winning the first set 6-2 it looked like she was on her way to a straightforward win, but her opponent Katie Le came out strong in the second set and actually took a 4-3 lead. Gibbs was visibly frustrated at her play, so much so that Forood took her first visit down to the court on the changeover. Along with some technical advice, “she really came down there to settle me down,” Gibbs said of the visit.

She broke the next game at 15, at which point she was the last singles match still playing. Gibbs noted that being the last player on the courts and having the rest of her teammates watching “can be a little stressful…but it upped my energy and intensity.” She went on to win the rest of her games and finish off Le 6-4.

Junior Mallory Burdette had been finished on court two beside Gibbs, cruising to a 6-1, 6-1 victory and getting off the courts before any of her teammates.

“This is all just preparation for the Big Dance in May,” Burdette said, noting that she is still looking to improve on “being more aggressive in singles and finishing more points off at the net.”

Courts three and four saw freshman Ellen Tsay and senior Veronica Li take easy wins after both players were shifted up a court because of the absence of the injured Stacey Tan. Tsay took her sets 6-1, 6-4 and Li won 6-1, 6-2. Junior Natalie Dillon won six games in a row twice, losing the first three games of the second set in between, for a 6-0, 6-3 win.

While Tan did not play singles, she did pair up with Tsay in doubles for an 8-1 victory. Burdette and Gibbs matched that with an 8-1 victory of their own, while Dillon and Li took a little bit more time in their 8-3 win.

Stanford now prepares to host USC and UCLA this weekend, with the Trojans coming to the Farm on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and the Bruins arriving for a Saturday showdown at noon.