When Cal comes to town, Stanford teams find a new level of intensity in their play. It was no different for the No. 26 women’s tennis team (5-2) as it used a renewed commitment to high-energy play to achieve a 6-1 non-conference victory over No. 9 Cal (5-4).
On Feb. 24, the team suffered a tough 4-2 loss at the hands of another big rival, the Florida Gators, revealing a few key changes that needed to be made.
“We’re trying to up the intensity for sure,” said junior Nicole Gibbs. “That’s the baseline. We’re trying to be more organized with our agenda each day when we go out on the court. We’re just trying to get more physical as a team and make sure we can outlast our opponents on the court.”
None of the women in the Stanford lineup have ever experienced a loss to the Golden Bears. The Cardinal has won its last seven matches in a row against Cal dating back to April 2009. Stanford will meet Cal again, this time in Pac-12 play, on April 19.
Stanford started the day off well with another fine showing in doubles. Juniors Kristie Ahn and Gibbs defeated Cal’s Lynn Chi and Anett Schutting 8-4 and senior Stacey Tan and sophomore Ellen Tsay beat Cal’s Kelly Chui and Klara Fabikova by the same score. This was a great sign for Ahn and Gibbs as they have struggled as a doubles pair over the season.
“We started out the year with me playing backhand, her at forehand,” Ahn explained. “It wasn’t really clicking and we thought about splitting up our pair for a bit. Instead, we just tried switching sides. We tried it out. It’s been working great ever since, and it’s always fun to play with her.”
In singles, Stanford showed that California’s higher ranking meant little to them as the home team rattled off five straight Cardinal points. The first off the court was Ahn, who put together a dominant 6-3, 6-2 win over a clearly struggling Lynn Chi.
Less than five minutes later, Gibbs recorded a 6-2, 6-2 win at the top spot over No. 8 Schutting. While she ran away with the first set, there was a momentum struggle at 2-2 in the second. Schutting put up a strong battle on Gibbs’ serve, but after several ad points, Gibbs was able to hold serve and run away with the next four games.
“When I was feeling confident, I was hitting my forehand pretty well and hitting her off the court pretty effectively,” Gibbs said. “But there were patches when I wasn’t hitting as confident, and I relied on my movement and waited for her to make errors or give me a short ball to work with.”
“I’ve played her three times, and I’m 3-0,” Gibbs continued. “That being said, I’ve played pretty well the three times we have come up against each other. She’s no one I would underestimate, and I was happy to get the win.”
Krista Hardebeck and Tsay were both close to winning at this point, too close to tell who would provide the clinching victory for Stanford. It proved to be the promising freshman Hardebeck, who left the court with a challenging 6-3, 7-5 victory that provided a needed victory in her first team competition against the rival Golden Bears.
“It was great clinching the match,” Hardebeck said. “I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks, and it’s been coming at a tough time for my tennis. It was really important to me to win a match and help out my team. I was so happy to be the one to finish it off. I’m looking forward to a lot more Stanford beatdowns of Cal.”
Tsay closed a minute later for a 6-2, 6-2 win that was more difficult than the score would suggest. Her doubles partner Tan displayed an incredible strength of will to come back from a first set in which she won zero games to defeat Cal’s Tayler Davis 0-6, 7-5, 6-0.
Cal took back one point when Stanford freshman Lindsey Kostas lost 7-6, 6-2 but only after competing in a first-set that was so close it took the same amount of time as the entire matches of Ahn, Gibbs, and Hardebeck.
The Cardinal has five matches left in its homestand: Washington, Washington State, Texas, Colorado and Utah. The team’s next match is this Friday, March 8 at 1:30 p.m. against Washington.
Contact Will Seaton at wseaton ‘at’ stanford.edu.