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Gibbs’ return sparks sweep through desert

The Stanford women’s tennis team lost just one individual match this weekend in its quest to take down its southwestern foes. In two crucial Pac-12 matchups, the No. 13 Cardinal (16-3, 8-1 Pac-12) first blanked No. 75 Arizona (9-12, 1-8 Pac-12) on Friday. The momentum continued through Saturday when No. 21 Arizona State (15-5, 5-4 Pac-12) fell to the Cardinal 6-1.

Both matches saw the return of junior co-captain Nicole Gibbs, who is ranked 27th nationally in singles. At the beginning of April, Gibbs fell to Santa Clara’s Katie Le in an uncharacteristic loss. She expressed slight frustration with how she was playing and sat out in the following two matches against Oregon and Hawaii due to a minor injury.

“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. Mentally, I felt a little bit scared to lose. I had a rough going at the LA schools, so I thought I could use a win in terms of my confidence.”

Freshman Krista Hardebeck (above) won both her singles matches
Freshman Krista Hardebeck (above) won both her singles matches in straight sets as the Card cruised by Arizona and ASU. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

Gibbs made her presence known this weekend. Her return meant that fellow junior co-captain Kristie Ahn finally had her doubles partner back on court No. 1. The nationally ranked No. 7 duo was the first to finish, registering an 8-4 victory over Arizona’s Lacey Smyth and Shayne Austin.

“It was great to have [Gibbs] back and healthy,” Ahn said. “She’s been working hard to get back to the 100 percent, and I think we can all see that it’s paying off.”

The women won the doubles point with an 8-6 victory from sophomore Ellen Tsay and senior Stacey Tan on court No. 2 over Akilah James and Kim Stubbe. Senior co-captain Natalie Dillon and freshman Krista Hardebeck fell on Court No. 3 to Arizona’s Susan Mc Rann and Laura Oldham 8-5.

Gibbs came out strong in singles, capturing the victory against Arizona’s Lacey Smyth 6-3, 6-1 on Friday. The rest of the lineup had similar success. Tan was the first to finish, delivering a 6-0, 6-2 blow to Arizona’s Shayne Austin. Tsay clinched the match for the Cardinal when she defeated Mc Rann. Ahn, Hardebeck and Dillon posted victories as well, propelling the Cardinal to its third consecutive shutout and its eighth this season.

The Cardinal continued to dominate with a swift defeat of Arizona State on Saturday, with doubles once again coming out strong. The Gibbs/Ahn pairing recorded an 8-3 win over the No. 34 team of Jacqueline Cako and Nicole Smith. After Tan and Tsay cruised past Joanna Smith and Ebony Panoho 8-3 on court No. 2 to clinch the doubles point, the third match was abandoned with Stanford ahead 7-4.

Gibbs had a slightly tougher singles match against the 16th-ranked Cako in her second singles match of the Cardinal’s trip to the desert. The match was tighter; Cako even tied the second set at 5-5. Gibbs pulled out a sweep regardless, capturing a straight set victory with a 6-4, 7-5 win.

Ahn crushed Desirae Krawczyk with a 6-0, 6-1 victory. Hardebeck and Tsay also delivered straight-set wins.

Tan and Dillon both struggled in long three-setters. Tan was able to pull out a victory in the end, defeating ASU’s Hannah James 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Dillon had an extremely close match as well. She came back to win the second set after losing the first but ended up falling to Panoho in the end, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

The Cardinal will play its last match of the season against cross-town rival Cal Friday. Stanford won the first match against then-No. 9 Cal 6-1 at Taube Family Tennis Stadium back on March 2. But only Friday’s match will count in the Pac-12 standings.

Friday’s match is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. in Berkeley.

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

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