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Pac-12 Tournament play underway on Thursday

The postseason has finally arrived for the Stanford women’s tennis team. After dropping a hard-fought battle to No. 9 Cal last Saturday in its final regular season match, the No. 12 Cardinal (16-4, 8-2 Pac-12) traveled to Ojai on Wednesday to prepare for the Pac-12 singles and doubles tournament with new determination.

“We actually are getting more fired up than ever,” said freshman Krista Hardebeck. “We’ve had a lot of team meetings with just the players recently, and we are trying our best to make as many adjustments and improvements as we can in the next three weeks before NCAAs.”

Stanford lost to the Golden Bears (15-5, 9-1 Pac-12) for the first time since 2009, despite coming out with a 1-0 lead after capturing the doubles point. Even more disappointing for the team was that the women had cruised past Cal earlier this season, 6-1, in a match that did not count for conference standings. Cal finished the season second in the Pac-12 behind USC, while Stanford finished at the No. 3 spot.

Now that dual matches are over, the Cardinal players will focus on individual play this weekend at the Pac-12 Tournament. Last year, Stanford’s No. 1 player, Nicole Gibbs, captured her first singles title of her collegiate career at the Pac-12 Tournament. This year, Gibbs will instead be competing in a pro-circuit tournament in Virginia.

(ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)
With junior Nicole Gibbs unavailable to play in the Pac-12 Tournament due to playing in a pro-circuit tournament in Virginia, junior Kristi Ahn will take the top singles spot. (ZETONG LI/The Stanford Daily)

The Pac-12 Tournament consists of a 32-person main singles draw and a 16-team main doubles draw. Hardebeck, senior Stacey Tan and junior co-captain Kristie Ahn will all represent the Cardinal in the main draw.

Hardebeck has a team-high 28 overall wins and won the ITA Northwest Regional singles championship earlier this year. Hardebeck, who is coming off a 4-6, 2-6 singles loss to Cal’s nationally ranked No. 5 Zsofi Susanyi and a 4-8 doubles loss with her senior co-captain partner Natalie Dillon, is focused on how she can rebound for the upcoming tournament.

“The dual match losses happened and it’s over,” she said. “The main key is to move on and forget it. I need to focus instead on improving my good shots and playing my game more solidly.”

Ahn and Tan will both return to the main draw as well. Ahn, who did not compete in last year’s tournament due to injury, won the Pac-10 Tournament two years ago. Going 23-4 overall this season and currently on a team-best six-match winning streak, she has high hopes of repeating her success from two years ago. Tan made it all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament last year, where Gibbs ultimately ended her run.

“You just have to focus on your match and keep it as professional as possible,” Hardebeck said of playing teammates. “Once it’s over, you are back to being teammates and that’s the main priority.”

Sophomore Ellen Tsay and Tan will be competing as a doubles team together in the main draw. The duo is entering the tournament with momentum. They defeated Cal’s Klara Fabikova and Zsofi Susanyi in a close 9-7 nail-biter to clinch the doubles point for Stanford this past weekend.

Dillon, Tsay, junior Amelia Herring and freshman Lindsey Kostas will compete in the Pac-12 invitational draw this weekend. The Pac-12 doubles invitational draw will also feature two Stanford teams: the pairing of Herring and Kostas and the duo of Dillon and Hardebeck. With a three-week break until NCAAs, the tournament will provide the players with ongoing match play practice.

“The tournament fires up that drive to fight for yourself,” Hardebeck said.  “The individual mindset contributes to the team mindset in the end.”

The Pac-12 Tournament begins today and runs through Sunday.  The championship action will be broadcast from Ojai on the Pac-12 Networks.

Contact Chrissy Jones at chrissyj ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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