No. 18 Stanford women’s tennis (10-5, 5-1 Pac-12) was overpowered in singles play by undefeated No. 1 UC Berkeley (17-0, 5-0 Pac-12), resulting in a 4-3 loss on Sunday afternoon at the Hellman Tennis Complex in Berkeley.
The Bears’ victory does not count for Pac-12 conference standings; the rematch on April 16 at Stanford counts instead. Although Cal ultimately prevailed, the close final score of 4-3 shows that Stanford is a competent competitor against the team that has dominated women’s college tennis this season.
In a match televised on Pac-12 Networks, the Cardinal put forth its best doubles play so far this season to clinch the doubles point, but the Bears’ aggressive style of singles play garnered them four singles wins.
“They were the aggressors on most of the courts once the singles started,” head coach Lele Forood said. “On the top courts, they played a more attacking style, and we seemed not to be able to match that.”
Freshman Caroline Lampl and senior Krista Hardebeck each notched notable wins in Stanford’s only singles victories of the day. Lampl earned her first career win against a top-100 ranked ITA player, outlasting Cal freshman Olivia Hauger, ranked 68th nationally, with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win. Hardebeck, ranked 118th, provided a silver lining for Stanford as the last match to finish with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4) win over No. 93 Denise Starr.
Kicking off the Big Slam, juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle, the 4th-ranked doubles team in the nation, triumphed 6-2 over Cal’s 6th-ranked team of Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr on Court 1. Senior Carol Zhao and freshman Melissa Lord clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 victory on Court 2.
Senior Krista Hardebeck and freshman Caroline Lampl were up 5-4 with triple match point at 40-0, but their doubles match was abandoned since Stanford had already claimed the doubles point.
Cal’s Lynn Chi, ranked 64th nationally, kicked off the Bears’ singles success with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 57 Doyle on Court 3. Lord then fell 6-3, 6-1 to Cal’s Karla Popovic on Court 6. On Court 2, Cal’s Klara Fabikova, ranked 11th, overpowered No. 23 Davidson 6-2, 6-3.
With Cal up 3-1 in the dual match tally, it became clear that the Court 1 battle between Zhao and Cal’s 7th-ranked Manasse would decide the match.
Manasse sprinted to a 4-1 lead in the first set, winning points with aggressive approach shots and volleys that kept Zhao on the defensive. Zhao, the 2015 NCAA singles runner-up, fought back to 4-4 but Manasse took the first set 7-5. In the second set, Zhao found herself in a similarly perilous position down 2-5. Zhao staved off a match point while serving at 3-5, 40-all with a put-away overhead, but Manasse broke Zhao’s serve in the following game to win 7-5, 6-4 and clinch Cal’s victory.
Zhao and Manasse share a history of intense competition. Last year in the 2015 NCAA Championships, Zhao outlasted Manasse 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 to clinch Stanford’s 4-3 upset over Cal in the round of 16.
Following Manasse’s victory, an overheard comment from a Bears’ fan revealed the thrilling atmosphere surrounding the Big Slam.
“Wow, that was intense,” said the Bears’ fan, breathing a sigh of relief, while on court Manasse shared celebratory hugs with teammates.
Even though Cal had secured the victory, the majority of the crowd remained to watch and cheer as Lampl and Hardebeck battled to victory in hard-fought third sets.
On Court 5, Lampl was well-matched against fellow freshman Olivia Hauger, who has garnered national attention by clinching Cal’s victories over No. 3 University of North Carolina and No. 6 Florida. Both freshmen rely on deep, heavy forehands and are particularly talented at the put-away swinging volley.
Lampl won the first set 6-4, while Hauger took the second set 6-4 after jumping to an early 5-2 lead. Up 4-3 in the third set, Lampl hit three swinging volley forehand winners in a single game, breaking Hauger’s serve. Serving at 5-3, 30-all, Lampl hit yet another unreturnable forehand swinging volley to clear her path to victory.
“Going into the match, I knew it was going to be a battle because [Hauger] is so mentally tough,” Lampl said. “I just had to go into the match with that mindset, knowing it was going to be a long match.”
On Court 4, Hardebeck extended her current winning streak to 12 as she dispatched Cal’s Starr 7-4 in the set tiebreaker.
Forood noted that the hard-fought match established Stanford as a significant threat to Cal’s dominance, considering that the Cardinal will have a home-court advantage in the upcoming conference-play rematch.
“[A dual match score of] 4-3 sends a message that we’re a little closer to them than a 1-6,” Forood said. “It was a pretty rowdy atmosphere, but we’re hoping to have a rowdy crowd on the 16th of April.”
The Big Slam was Stanford’s second match of the weekend. On Saturday, Stanford notched its third consecutive shutout with a 7-0 victory over No. 38 Oregon, who fielded only four players due to injuries.
Stanford next travels to Washington April 8-9 to compete against No. 61 University of Washington and No. 62 Washington State.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.