Playing in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium, the Stanford women’s tennis team strode past the UCLA Bruins in arguably one of its toughest matches this season with a 5-2 victory on Saturday.
The No. 1 Cardinal (4-0) won its fourth straight match of the season against No. 4 UCLA (4-2), maintaining its top national ranking in the process.
“I think this was definitely an important win for us,” said senior Hilary Barte. “It is still pretty early in the season, but I think this win proves how tough we are.”
Barte and sophomore Mallory Burdette defeated UCLA’s top doubles team of Courtney Dolehide and Andrea Remynse, 8-4, securing Stanford’s first doubles victory. However, the Card’s number-two doubles team of freshmen Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn fell, 8-6, in a close match to UCLA’s Noelle Hickey and McCall Jones. That left it up to the match on court No. 3, between Stanford’s Carolyn McVeigh and Veronica Li and UCLA’s Pamela Montez and Carling Seguso, to break the tie. The tandem of McVeigh and Li gave the Cardinal the first point of the match by securing an overall doubles victory with an 8-5 win.
“In addition to our usual preparation of improving individually and as a team, we also focused a lot on our doubles play for this match,” Barte said. “I think it showed and I’m very proud of the team.”
Riding its momentum from the doubles victory, the Cardinal quickly jumped ahead in singles play, capturing the first set of the match on five of the six courts.
In the No. 4 spot, Burdette took the first singles victory, easily defeating Dolehide, 6-0, 6-1. This was Burdette’s first time playing in both doubles and singles matches since battling an undisclosed injury. Gibbs finished next as she notched an equally impressive win over Hickey, 6-3, 6-1, on court No. 3. Third to capture a win was Barte, beating Jones at the No. 1 spot and effectively sealing the win for Stanford, though there were three more matches to be accounted for. Ahn also produced a 6-4, 6-3 win over Remynse on court No. 2.
After seeing them bounce back from a doubles defeat, the veteran Barte had nothing but good things to say about the performance of Ahn and Gibbs in winning their singles matches.
“I think it is great that we have two freshmen playing so high in line,” she said. “It sends a strong message out about our team, and they both have obviously been doing a fabulous job. Nicole is so gritty, so fierce, and Kristie fights just as hard. I love looking down and playing next to them.”
Stanford’s two losses came at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles spots. Li dropped both sets, 6-4, 6-4, to UCLA’s Maya Johansson. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker by 7-6 (5), Cardinal sophomore Stacey Tan lost the next set, 2-6, to Pamela Montez, and fell in the tiebreaker 1-0 (10). Despite these two singles losses, the Cardinal still pulled out an inspiring victory over the Bruins.
Playing at home certainly helped the Cardinal, as many fans came out to cheer in the beautiful, sunny weather. With the Bruins handing Stanford its only dual-match defeat last season, the Cardinal was no doubt seeking revenge on its home court.
The Cardinal will have this opportunity when it faces UCLA again on March 25 in Los Angeles. The matchup will officially count for the Pac-10 conference standings, and will give UCLA the chance to avenge its defeat.
Stanford seeks to pick up its fifth victory in its next home match on Thursday, Feb. 10, against Southern Methodist University at 1:30 p.m.