The No. 3 Stanford women’s tennis team (7-0) blanked No. 5 Florida (8-2) during a sunny dual match at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium on Sunday afternoon in front of an excited and unusually large crowd as it raced to a 7-0 victory.
The match continued what has become an intense women’s tennis rivalry since the Cardinal beat Florida 4-3 in 2010 to win the NCAA championship. Coming into Sunday, Stanford had a 4-2 record against the Gators in the teams’ last six matches, the most recent of which was in May 2013 during the NCAA semifinals, which Stanford won 4-3 in dramatic fashion. The Card would go on to win the NCAA championship to clinch Stanford’s 19th consecutive Director’s Cup.
Sunday’s match, which ended at 7-0 once singles and doubles had both finished, was expected to be much closer given the heated rivalry and high calibers of both squads. Still, the Gators gave the Cardinal a run for its money in hard-fought matches until sophomore Krista Hardebeck clinched the Stanford victory by beating No. 19 Alexandra Cercone on court No. 2 in a repeat of her championship-deciding performance in the NCAA semifinals last year.
The day opened with Stanford taking the doubles point quickly. The No. 17 pair of senior Kristie Ahn and freshman Carol Zhao beat No. 14 Florida duo Sofie Oyen and Belinda Woolcock, 8-5. Then, the team of freshman Caroline Doyle and Hardebeck beat Florida’s Olivia Janowicz and Stefani Stojic, 8-1, to clinch the point.
“We had been struggling a bit [on doubles court No. 3], so for [Caroline and Krista] to come out and win 8-1, it made the right statement that we are all ready to come to the party now,” Stanford head coach Lele Forood told GoStanford.com after the match. “I think that was really big.”
As the singles matches began and the players worked through the unseasonably warm weather, Stanford quickly went up five sets to Florida’s one, starting with No. 51 Zhao capturing the first set for Stanford. Junior Ellen Tsay was the last to finish her first set, as she battled No. 38 Belinda Woolcock on court No. 5 in an intense tiebreaker that ended with Woolcock winning 7-5 to take the set.
In the second sets, Zhao set the tone for the rest of the dual by capping off a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 14 Brianna Morgan. Zhao was on point against Morgan all afternoon and was rewarded by being the first off of the court. Fellow freshman No. 25 Taylor Davidson followed quickly thereafter, winning her match on court No. 4, 6-2, 6-2.
After Hardebeck secured Stanford’s victory on court No. 2, Ahn, playing in position No. 1, fought hard to avoid a second consecutive loss and ended up on top against No. 11 Janowicz, winning 6-2, 7-5. Tsay rounded out the afternoon by finishing her marathon match 6-7, 6-4, 1-0 (4).
A strong team victory against quality competition like Florida will serve Stanford well as it prepares to begin Pac-12 competition.
“Everyone came out here and gave it their all today,” Hardebeck told GoStanford.com. “[It’s] important to get a taste of what it’s like against a really top team. I thought the energy was really high today.”
Stanford women’s tennis next faces Cal at noon on Saturday in Berkeley.
Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu.