Without Gibbs, women’s tennis still sweeps Oregon

Even in the absence of junior co-captain Nicole Gibbs, Stanford women’s tennis cruised past the Oregon Ducks (12-8, 1-7 Pac-12) Saturday, blanking them 7-0 in dominant fashion.

Gibbs, who watched from the side due to a minor injury, is currently making her way back to the top level at which she’s used to performing.

“I’m addressing all of the shortcomings I’m aware of physically and mentally and working my way back to a confident state,” Gibbs said. “I’m trying to get back to the form I’m used to playing and the form the team is used to seeing me compete in.”

The No. 14 doubles pair of Gibbs and fellow junior co-captain Kristie Ahn usually represents the No. 12 Cardinal (13-3, 6-1 Pac-12) on the top doubles court together, but the lineup was shuffled for this match without Gibbs. The No. 80 duo of senior Stacey Tan and sophomore Ellen Tsay played Oregon’s Nicole Long and Patricia Skowronski on court No. 1.

Junior Kristie Ahn (above)

Junior Kristie Ahn (above) cruised at No. 1 singles in junior Nicole Gibbs’ absence. (DON FERIA/StanfordPhoto.com)

Though Tan and Tsay fell in a close 8-7 (3) battle, the Cardinal captured the doubles point nonetheless. Ahn and junior Amelia Herring were victorious over Lana Buttner and Pascale Neubert 8-5 on court No. 2. Senior co-captain Natalie Dillon and freshman Krista Hardebeck had similar success over Sofia Hager and Brooke Hughes on court No. 3 with an 8-4 win to clinch the point.

“Some girls aren’t as strong in singles, but are really strong in doubles,” Hardebeck said, referring the Ducks’ first doubles team. “Our focus was moving at the net, being aggressive with our volleys, and working together as a team.”

Hardebeck was dominant in singles play, where she ranks 14th in the country, easily defeating Skowronski 6-3, 6-1.

“[Skowronski] is a great player who hits really hard,” Hardebeck said. “I had to focus on making sure I stayed consistent while placing the ball well.”

The rest of the singles lineup also had little difficulty moving past their Oregon opponents. No. 93 Tan trounced Hager to seize a 6-1, 6-2 win on court No. 3, while the 30th-ranked Ahn clinched the match when she defeated No. 102 Long 6-2, 6-2 at first singles.

Ahn has made a comeback of her own this season. Missing the end of her freshman season and much of her sophomore season with an ankle injury, her inaugural victory on the top court this weekend signified another big milestone in her impressive return.

The back of the Cardinal lineup posted similar wins. The 51st-ranked Tsay crushed Buttner 6-1, 6-2 at the No. 4 spot, while freshman Lindsey Kostas captured a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Hughes on the last court. Dillon defeated Rabea Stueckemann on court No. 5, 6-4, 6-3 to finish off the sweep.

The Cardinal has now won nine of its last 10 matches and will face Hawaii Tuesday on its home courts. The contest will be Stanford’s last home match of the season.

The women travel to take on the Arizona schools this weekend and cross-town rival Cal the weekend after. The Stanford women will then prepare for postseason play in their quest for a national championship.

A victory over unranked Hawaii, a team that the Cardinal defeated 6-1 in its last meeting in an exhibition match at Hawaii in November 2011, is crucial in terms of maintaining team confidence and momentum.

“Usually the tougher the team, the more everyone has to focus,” Hardebeck said. “We really treat all opponents the same though. If you get too far ahead of yourself, you could potentially suffer a bad loss.”

The goal to emphatically close out the season in the next few weeks applies to Hardebeck just as it applies to the whole team.

“First we need to keep our energy up,” Hardebeck said, “and secondly we need to support each other.”

The Card’s showdown against Hawaii will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Taube Family Tennis Center.

Contact Chrissy Jones at chrissyj “at” stanford.edu.

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