The Stanford women’s tennis team suffered only its third home loss since 1999 on Saturday when it fell to No. 47 Saint Mary’s (5-3) in a close 4-3 match.
The No. 7 Cardinal (3-1) was playing without junior Nicole Gibbs, a team captain and regular on court one. Gibbs was playing a pro tournament in Rancho Santa Fe this past weekend, making it all the way to the finals of the singles draw.
Junior and fellow co-captain Kristie Ahn, who usually plays No. 1 doubles with Gibbs, felt her absence but made no excuses.
“Going into it, we knew it would be tough without Gibbs,” she said. “And unfortunately, we came up just a bit short.”
Stanford dropped the doubles point for the first time this season to the Gaels. Normally, Gibbs and Ahn team up to play at the No. 1 spot, but without Gibbs, senior Stacey Tan and sophomore Ellen Tsay manned court one, losing to Danielle Flores and Jenny Jullien, 8-5.
“St. Mary’s did a better job in doubles that day,” Tsay admitted. “They made more serves and put away more volleys, so a lot of it just boiled down to execution.”
The court two duo of Ahn and junior Amelia Herring also fell, losing to the Saint Mary’s team of Catherine Isip and Elizabeth Searl in a tight 8-6 match. It was Ahn and Herring’s first appearance together as a doubles team.
“The match was neck and neck the whole time, and unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on a few key points toward the end of the pro set,” Ahn said. “Amelia and I played well though, and it was a lot of fun. They were very respectable opponents.”
Senior captain Natalie Dillon and freshman Krista Hardebeck were able to pull out a 9-8 win, but that didn’t change the outcome of the overall doubles point.
Down 1-0, Stanford knew it had to step it up in singles. Tan crushed Jade Frampton, giving up just one game to her in the second set. Ahn then put the Cardinal ahead 2-1 with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Isip.
The match was even after Hardebeck lost to Jullien on court one, 7-5, 6-1, but freshman Lindsey Kostas captured a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Audrey Leitz in her first appearance this year, putting the Cardinal back on top.
It was tied up again after Saint Mary’s Flores outlasted Tsay at the No. 3 spot in a three-setter, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.
“[Flores] was playing to win and swung fearlessly, and I gave her way too much leeway to control points and also didn’t handle her attacking shots very well,” Tsay said. “I didn’t play as assertively as I have been this season, and I know that I need to get back to that style of play. “
It all came down to court five. Dillon fought a hard battle against Catherine Leduc, eventually losing 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
“Tennis is not a timed sport, nor is there a mercy rule,” Ahn said. “The craziest comebacks do in fact happen. It’s also difficult because momentum is such a huge part.”
The team isn’t going to dwell on the past though.
“We’ve accepted what has happened and are ready to move on,” Ahn said.
“The loss has added a new level of intensity and urgency,” Tsay said. “As the coaches pointed out, the loss is not a total loss if we use it to fuel us and motivate us for the rest of the season.”
The Cardinal will have its chance to capture its own upset when it travels to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the No. 2 Gators this Sunday. Stanford will also face No. 18 Clemson on Saturday.
The Gators are one of Stanford’s biggest rivals. Florida beat the Cardinal in the 2011 NCAA championship on the Farm, abruptly putting an end to Stanford’s undefeated season.
Now, the team is concentrating on revenge.
“We’re especially focusing on doubles, particularly [Gibbs] and myself as she’s been gone so much,” Ahn said. “We’re just trying to fine-tune and get ourselves confident with our games before taking on Clemson and Florida.”
This will be the Cardinal’s first trip to the East Coast this year and its first chance to play two top-20 teams in one weekend.
“It’ll be a great opportunity for us to bounce back,” Tsay said.
The Cardinal will appear in Gainesville against Clemson this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Florida this Sunday at 8 a.m.