Widgets Magazine

Women’s tennis misses out on Pac-12 titles

The No. 9 Stanford women’s tennis team (16-2, 8-2 Pac-12) fell short this weekend at the Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Championships in Ojai, California. Six different Cardinal players reached at least the quarterfinals in doubles, singles and invitational doubles and singles, but none ultimately won the tournament finals.

In the main draw, the Cardinal were represented in singles by No. 49 junior Ellen Tsay, No. 54 sophomore Krista Hardebeck, No. 40 freshman Taylor Davidson and No. 23 freshman Carol Zhao, who came into the tournament seeded fourth.

Freshman Caroline Doyle made a deep run in invitational singles, reaching the final. (NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/isiphotos.com)

Freshman Caroline Doyle (ab0ve) made a deep run in the invitational singles portion of the Pac-12 Championships, reaching the semifinals before falling to Giuliana Olmos of USC. (NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/isiphotos.com)

After an incredible run in last year’s tournament in which she reached the singles championship match, Hardebeck bowed out early this year after falling 6-3, 7-5 to UCLA’s No. 13 Chanelle Van Nguyen, who came into the singles tournament ranked second.

For the other three Cardinal players, the first round draw was significantly easier, with no opponents listed on the national rankings or seeded higher in the tournament.

Tsay, Davidson and Zhao each downed their opposition on Thursday morning to advance to the round of 16 later in the day, during which the sailing was not as smooth.

Tsay fell to California’s No. 31 Denise Starr, who was the only Bear to lose her match to the Cardinal when the two teams faced on April 19. Davidson also reached the end of her tournament run as Arizona State’s No. 55 Desirae Krawczyk upset the exceptionally solid freshman in three sets.

That left just Zhao in the running for the singles championship, and after whipping through Julija Lukac of Washington, Cal once again stood between the Cardinal and the title. On Friday, Zhao’s quarterfinal draw was No. 25 Lynn Chi, who came into the draw as the fifth seed, making the match one of the most intense of the tournament.

After just two sets, though, Chi had her second victory over a Stanford player in a week, and she went on to the semifinals instead of Zhao. Chi ultimately lost in the semifinals to UCLA’s top-seeded Jennifer Brady, who went on to win the singles tournament.

Still, Zhao, a freshman from Canada, had an impressive run at her first Pac-12 Tournament and quickly had to refocus herself to begin doubles play. Zhao and senior Kristie Ahn were seeded top overall spot in the doubles draw after losing just one match during conference play. The No. 38 duo of Davidson and Tsay also made an appearance as the third overall seed.

Both Cardinal pairs breezed past the round of 16 and into the quarterfinals, where UCLA’s No. 11 duo of Chanelle Van Nguyen and Courtney Dolehide took down Davidson/Tsay 8-5.

Zhao and Ahn, however, continued to cruise straight through to the semifinals, where Zhao had double the opportunity for revenge in facing Cal’s No. 42 Lynn Chi and Annett Schutting on Saturday. Schutting and Chi were also the only team to have defeated Ahn and Zhao during the regular season, which clinched the doubles point for Cal on Stanford’s Senior Day.

This time was different. Ahn and Zhao came out firing, and took down the Cal pair 8-3 to move on to the Ojai Tournament doubles championship against USC’s Kaitlyn Christian and Giuliana Olmos.

Olmos and Christian were a bit of a surprise coming into the finals, especially after not having been ranked during the regular season. Regardless, they overcame the odds to defeat Stanford’s last shot at a title with a 6-3, 6-3 result on Sunday afternoon.

If Ahn and Zhao had won, it would have been the first conference doubles title for the Cardinal since 2006.

Overall, the weekend was still a success for Stanford’s squad despite the lack of an ultimate victory. Their biggest and most important stage yet, the NCAA Tournament, is still to come.

Ahn will be back in the singles rotation for the national championships, and Hardebeck should also be in good form in the No. 2 position in the Cardinal’s lineup.

Bright spots will also certainly include Zhao and No. 52 freshman Caroline Doyle, who had a fantastic weekend in the invitational portion of the tournament. She came in seeded first in her draw, and went all the way to the semifinals before falling to No. 70 Olmos of USC.

The best could certainly be still to come for Stanford, and plenty of opportunities for vengeance will surface as the NCAA Tournament begins. Pac-12 powerhouses UCLA, USC and Cal will all be present in the tournament, as will East Coast heavy-hitters Duke, Virginia and Georgia.

Despite some recent losses, the Cardinal will go in as strong as ever, hoping to show the nation why they are the most decorated women’s program in the history of college tennis.

Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu.