There was no neighborly feeling between the two crosstown rivals on Wednesday night when the No. 12 Stanford women’s tennis team took down Santa Clara 5-2 at home.
The reliability of players Kristie Ahn, ranked 30th nationally, and Krista Hardebeck, ranked 14th nationally, was a key force in the win. The Cardinal refused to be thrown off by the spontaneous change in schedule—the game was moved up a day early—and they approached the non-conference game with ferocity.
Ahn defeated the Broncos’ Kelly Lamble in smashing scores of 6-1 and 6-2, while Hardebeck finished off Santa Clara with wins of 6-1 and 6-1 against Alex Zaniewski. Hardebeck was also significant in the late March win against No. 4 UCLA, when the Cardinal’s persistence was rewarded with a suspenseful 4-3 win.
Santa Clara has struggled recently against top-ranked teams as it lost to both No. 20 Rice and Pepperdine last week, but the besieged Broncos managed to upset No. 61 Loyola Marymount University to break their losing streak.
Santa Clara’s strongest effort came from the Broncos’ No. 1 player Katie Le, a junior who recently moved up four spots in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls after her solid performance against BYU on March 23. Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs was unable to fend off Le’s advances and she fell to Le 6-7, 6-3, 1-0 in one of the Cardinal’s two close losses to SCU.
“I personally have just been having a little difficulty mentally and physically,” Gibbs said. “I haven’t physically been where I want to be in terms of what I need to put in on the track and in the weight room, as well as in terms of injuries. A lot to be desired in terms of the physicality level—something I’m looking to address in this temporary hiatus from singles.”
Gibbs and partner Ahn powered through their doubles match win to put the Cardinal ahead early. The Gibbs and Ahn duo, along with the consistent doubles play of Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay, will be critical for the match against Oregon this weekend. Though Gibbs will not be playing singles against the Ducks due to a minor injury, the defending NCAA singles and doubles champion expects to return to the solo action soon.
For unranked Oregon, currently boasting a winning record of 11-6, the match at Stanford will not be the only challenge this weekend. Before traveling to the Farm, the Ducks will face No. 11 California across the Bay for an in-conference matchup. According to head coach Lele Forood, Stanford will need to take advantage of the Ducks’ back-to-back schedule and their 0-3 record on the road.
Although Stanford put Oregon away with a 6-1 win last year, the women will need to remain focused when they square off against experienced Ducks players like Patricia Skowronski and Julia Metzger. Metzger, a sophomore who provides huge backbone to the Oregon team, is 14-2 overall in singles matches and has had a winning streak of over 10 games this year.
“[Oregon is] always a little bit of a mystery to us,” Gibbs said. “They recruit a ton internationally…We are focusing on taking care of our side of the court and improving our game.”
Stanford will look to players like Hardebeck and Natalie Dillon to combat the steady play of Metzger. Dillon may look to avenge the only loss that Stanford suffered against the Ducks last year in her hard-fought 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 loss to Rabea Stueckemann.
“I think our team has grown infinitely from the beginning of the year,” Gibbs said. “We took a strange loss to St Mary’s. I see virtually none of the same players on the court recently that I saw during that period of time. Everyone has improved so much and made it that much more likely that they individually will provide a win. There’s that much more team confidence. Even with the step back at USC, we are nothing like the team we were at the beginning of the season.”
Oregon and Stanford square off on Saturday at the Taube Tennis Center, with the contest slated for a noon start time.
Chrissy Jones contributed to this report.
Contact Anna Blue at ablue ‘at’ stanford.edu.