By Alexa Corse
In enemy territory at Cal’s Hellman Tennis Complex on Sunday afternoon, Stanford freshman Caroline Lampl ripped an unreturnable forehand on match point, after which she characteristically raised both arms above her head in triumph.
No. 18 Stanford women’s tennis was edged by undefeated No. 1 Cal, 4-3, but Lampl’s 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Cal’s No. 68 Olivia Hauger helped prove that Stanford is an elite competitor as the NCAA Championships approach in Mid-May.
“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.”
It is fitting that Lampl, the top freshman in Stanford’s lineup, shone in the charged atmosphere of a match against Stanford’s archrival. Since arriving on The Farm, Lampl has stood out not only for notching the winningest record (17-4 overall, 12-2 dual) of her freshman class, but also for inspiring her teammates with her effervescent spirit.
The freshman’s enthusiasm for supporting the team’s morale has been particularly significant this season given the state of Stanford’s program. Due to both the temporary absence of star player Carol Zhao, who played on the professional circuit over winter quarter, and a lineup regularly featuring as many as three freshmen, Stanford has depended on contributions from the entire roster.
Lampl has provided the clinching singles victory in dual matches against Arizona, Utah and Oregon, while playing at the No. 4 or 5 spot. She also notched her first career win over a top-100 ranked player in her victory over fellow freshman Hauger.
“[Lampl demonstrated] great heart and great perseverance to get through that second set and pull out the third,” said head coach Lele Forood. “Great energy, as always.”
Caroline Lampl scores 1st career win over top-100 ITA player, against fr. #68 Olivia Hauger. HUGE win ? pic.twitter.com/dTgXfPCzzJ
— Alexa Corse (@AlexaCorse) April 3, 2016
In embracing college tennis’ team format, Lampl has navigated a significant transition. Unlike in many other sports, junior tennis players typically travel to and compete in tournaments as individual competitors.
“In juniors, you’re out there by yourself, with maybe your mom or your coach cheering you on,” Lampl said. “At first I was really nervous about college tennis. I was like, ‘If I don’t play well, I’m going to let my team down and that’s going to be embarrassing.’”
Lampl’s mindset shifted after her improbable three-set comeback victory over UCLA’s Alaina Miller on March 12 as a turning point. Despite being down 2-5 in the third set, Lampl recovered to win 6-7 (3), 6-1, 7-5.
This victory resonates with Lampl, even though Stanford had already clinched the dual match victory before she won the three-set battle. In that match, Lampl no longer felt the same anxiety about representing the Cardinal. Instead, she used the notion of playing well for the sake of her teammates, for Forood and for associate head coach Frankie Brennan as a source of positive motivation that helped her ignite her rally.
“I’ve found out how much fun [college tennis] is,” Lampl said. “The feeling of playing for your team in front of everyone and making people happy and fired up is something I like a lot.”
Growing up, Lampl developed her competitive spirit over countless hours practicing tennis with her older sister, Sunnie, a senior on the MIT tennis team.
The Lampl sisters have carried their passion for tennis — and their sibling rivalry — across the globe. Lampl first picked up a tennis racket in Hong Kong, where she lived until the age of 10, when her family moved to Purcellville, Virginia. Although the sisters now live on opposite coasts, Sunnie regularly live-streams her younger sister’s matches, and often texts commentary and encouragement to Caroline even while her match is underway.
As Lampl has grown more confident regarding college competition, the freshman has increasingly enjoyed the lively atmosphere offered by the crowd at Stanford’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
“If I hit a good shot, I’ll celebrate more in front of a crowd,” Lampl said. “When you have people cheering you on, I really want to win for my fans, my team and my coaches.”
Confidence on court plays a key role in how Lampl and her teammates support each other during a dual match. Throughout the season, the Stanford women have placed an emphasis on what Lampl calls “being loud”: vocalizing cheers, both to maintain their own high energy and to encourage teammates competing on neighboring courts.
Lampl now proudly lays claim to being one of the loudest while pumping herself up and her teammates, although she admits to trailing junior Caroline Doyle for the title of loudest Cardinal on court.
In two weeks, Lampl will likely face Cal’s Hauger again when the Bears come to The Farm on April 16. During the rematch, which will count toward the Pac-12 conference standings, Lampl will have another opportunity to thrive in the spotlight — or, at the least, to make sure that her cheers of “Go Cardinal” are heard.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.