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Rematch with USC looms as women’s tennis cruises into Round of 16

Junior Kristie Ahn (above) (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

The Stanford women’s tennis team breezed through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend, sweeping Miami (OH) (13-13, 7-1 MAC) in the first round and registering another shutout the following day against No. 22 Rice (21-5, 2-1 Conference USA). The No. 12 Cardinal (18-4, 8-2 PAC-12) will get a chance at revenge this Friday against Pac-12 champion No. 5 Southern California in the Round of 16.

Stanford made quick work of the RedHawks in the first round. The duo of senior Stacey Tan and sophomore Ellen Tsay blew past Nimisha Mohan and Alix Thurman 8-0 on Court No. 2 in doubles. Junior co-captains Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn then captured an 8-2 victory over Christine Guerrazzi and Ana Rajkovic on Court No. 1 to secure the doubles point.

Junior Kristie Ahn (above) (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)
Junior Kristie Ahn (above) combined to go 3-0 in singles and doubles as Stanford cruised into the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Entering singles play with momentum, the women delivered three crushing defeats to clinch the match 4-0. Tan finished first with a dominant 6-0, 6-1 win over Guerrazzi. Gibbs’ 6-1, 6-0 victory over Mohan came next before Tsay clinched the match 6-0, 6-1 over Rajkovic.

“I think the quote ‘to fear no one, but respect everyone’ couldn’t have been more relevant this weekend,” Ahn said. “Just because Miami (OH) is a small name in tennis doesn’t mean they can’t have a big impact.”

The Cardinal didn’t even have a full day’s rest before its second-round match against Rice on Saturday. Rice, who barely slid past Pepperdine 4-3 the day before, fell quickly to the Cardinal.

Tan and Tsay cashed in another shut out over Katie Gater and Liat Zimmermann on Court No. 2 to kick off the match. Once again, the eighth-ranked nationally pairing of Gibbs and Ahn prevailed as well, capturing an 8-4 victory over Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath to clinch the doubles point.

In singles, it was the three co-captains who put up quick victories. Gibbs defeated Beazant 6-2, 6-2 while Ahn beat Harmath 6-4, 6-2 to put the Cardinal on the brink of advancing. Senior Natalie Dillon clinched the match—her last home match at Stanford—over Solo Zinko 6-3, 6-1 to send the Cardinal to the Round of 16.

“It’s been so much fun playing with [Gibbs] this whole season,” Ahn said of her doubles teammate. “I think we feel comfortable with each other and have fun, which is when we’re playing our best tennis. We’re trying to work on staying aggressive both at the baseline and at the net, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Gibbs and Ahn will be one of several on the Stanford squad to get a chance at redemption this Friday against USC (23-2, 9-0 Pac-12). The Trojans crushed the Cardinal earlier this season 6-1 in Los Angeles. Ahn and Gibbs themselves fell 8-1 to the No. 2-ranked doubles team of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria.

“Our biggest challenge is the mental part, dealing with our history,” Ahn said. “But I think we’ve been waiting for our revenge as soon as we lost to them.”

USC is currently on a 15-match win streak and is one of two teams, along with top-seeded Florida, to have as few as two losses. Both of the Trojans’ losses came against top-eight opponents.

The Women of Troy are also looking for redemption in this year’s tournament after losing a close battle to UCLA 4-3 in last year’s semifinals.

The Stanford women leave for Urbana, Ill., on Tuesday. Receiving a day of rest on Sunday, the team has time for just one day of practice before flying east.

“The weather is going to be different, and there’s a time change, so we’re hoping to be all geared in by the time Friday rolls around,” Ahn said. “I think at this point, it’s about trying to make every player feel good about her game and getting ours minds right more than anything.”

The Cardinal and the Trojans meet this Friday at 10 a.m. at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex on the campus of University of Illinois. The winner will take on the winner of No. 4 Georgia and No. 13 Clemson Sunday at 10 a.m. for a berth in the semifinals.

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

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