By David Perez
The Stanford women’s tennis team defeated Northwestern 4-1 in the NCAA tournament round of 16 yesterday morning. With the victory, the Cardinal advanced into the quarterfinals, where it will see a rematch against Pac-12 co-champion USC.
Four-seed Stanford (21-1, 9-1 Pac-12) and five-seed USC (23-3, 9-1) shared the Pac-12 regular season title this year, as both teams finished with only one loss in the conference. That one loss for the Trojans was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Cardinal just over a month ago.
Stanford’s side of the bracket now includes only teams from the Pac-12, as California and UCLA are set to face off against each other in the quarterfinal round. No Pac-12 teams are on the other side of the bracket. That side does include Florida though, the team that Stanford has faced in the finals each of the past two years.
History seems to be repeating itself, as the Cardinal’s game against Northwestern was also a rematch of last year’s round of 16, when top overall seed Stanford took well over four hours to beat Northwestern 4-2. Stanford reached four points much quicker this year behind two-set victories from sophomore Nicole Gibbs, freshman Ellen Tsay, and junior Stacey Tan.
As the third-ranked singles player in the nation, Gibbs comfortably defeated junior Kate Turvy, the No. 20 singles player, in straights sets with scores of 7-5 and 6-3. Following suit, Tsay dominated against junior Brittany Wowchuk on court three while Tan beat sophomore Veronica Corning on court four.
“We’re just happy to have won today,” said head coach Lele Forood. “We have to tighten up some things…if we are going to be contenders here.”
Sophomore All-American Kristie Ahn did not make an appearance in Thursday’s match, and her condition is still day-to-day. She has been out with a foot injury for almost the entire year, but the coaches have not ruled out the possibility of her playing at some point during this tournament.
Stanford started the day the right way by seizing the doubles point, which it did not do in last year’s meeting. Burdette and Gibbs highlighted the doubles play, winning 8-1 on court one. The doubles team of Tsay and Tan also managed to defeat the Wildcat duo of Wowchuk and sophomore Nida Hamilton 8-5. The duo of Burdette and Gibbs has something to prove in Saturday’s match with USC, as the Trojans’ top team beat the pair in the finals of this year’s Pac-12 doubles championship.
“We’re hoping it’s USC [in the quarterfinals] for a little bit of a Pac-12 grudge match,” Gibbs said prior to USC’s 4-1 win over Baylor in the round of 16.
The upcoming match against USC should be considerably tougher with the stakes increasing in the deeper rounds of the NCAA tournament. Stanford will square off against the Trojans in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 9 a.m. PDT in Athens, GA.