Battling for the third set that would decide the Big Slam, freshman Caroline Lampl did not play it safe.
With Lampl up 4-3, Olivia Hauger of Cal hit a sky-high lob, whose protracted hang time seemed to rival how long the anxious fans in the crowd could bear to hold their breath. Lampl stepped forward across the baseline and improbably struck the descending ball out of the air, winning the point on a put-away swinging volley.
Lampl’s characteristic aggressive playing style paid off in a big way, as the freshman would go on to clinch No. 17 Stanford’s 4-3 upset over No. 1 Cal on Saturday afternoon at Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
“[Lampl] has been in the situation of being the last match on the court a couple of times now,” said head coach Lele Forood following Lampl’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over Hauger, a freshman who is ranked 114th nationally. “She goes for her shots, but they’re almost always the right shots.”
Stanford (13-5, 8-1 Pac-12) dealt Cal (19-1, 7-1) its first loss of the season and preserved its shot at being crowned the Pac-12 regular-season champion, which could depend on Stanford’s upcoming match against No. 21 USC in Ojai, California, on Wednesday.
The dramatic upset over Cal also served as revenge for Stanford, who suffered a nail-biting 3-4 loss against Cal two weeks ago in Berkley. The prior match on April 3 did not count for Pac-12 conference standings, however, so Stanford prevailed when it mattered for the conference championship. The victory over Cal marks Stanford’s biggest win since defeating No. 4 Florida on Feb. 28 and positions the Cardinal as a top contender in the NCAA Championships.
Stanford found itself at a disadvantage early in the dual match, when Cal won the doubles point. On Court 1, Cal’s Meagan Manasse and Denise Starr, the third-ranked doubles team in the country, won 6-4 over the fourth-ranked duo of juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle. Cal’s Klara Fabikova and Hauger clinched the doubles point, defeating senior Carol Zhao and freshman Melissa Lord 7-5 on Court 2.
The doubles loss put Stanford down 0-1 in the dual match score. The disadvantage seemed particularly formidable for Stanford, given that the Cardinal only won two singles matches against Cal on April 3.
Once singles play began, Zhao, a junior, offered the first indication that Stanford still had a shot at victory. Zhao jumped to an early 5-0 lead on Court 1 and never wavered, notching Stanford’s first singles win of the day, 6-1, 6-4. The win was revenge for Zhao, who lost 7-5, 6-4 to Manasse, ranked tenth nationally, two weeks ago.
On Court 4, senior Krista Hardebeck notched her 15th consecutive singles win with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 73 Starr. Cal countered with a win on Court 2, as No. 12 Fabikova defeated Davidson, ranked 33rd nationally, 6-4, 6-4.
On Court 3, Doyle fended off five match points to keep Stanford’s hopes alive. Doyle was cheered on by a crowd of over 20 enthusiastic friends throughout the match, and her thrilling 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over No. 68 Lynn Chi didn’t disappoint.
“That was fun [to have the crowd cheering],” Doyle said. “It was really helpful to have them and feed off their energy, especially after losing the first set pretty badly.”
Chi seemed less at ease in the spotlight and failed to convert match points due to unforced errors. Doyle found herself down double match point at 5-6, 30-30 in the third set, but Chi missed two consecutive backhand service returns wide, so the set went to a tiebreaker. Chi was up 6-3 in the set tiebreaker, but over her three match points, she sent a backhand return long and two groundstrokes into the net.
Doyle clinched the tiebreaker 8-6, avenging her 6-1, 6-3 loss to Chi two weeks ago and bringing Stanford only one singles win away from victory.
“Caroline is so positive,” Forood said. “She continues to believe and she turns things around.”
Cal’s Karla Popovic countered with a hard-fought 7-6 (1), 7-5 win over Lord.
With the dual match score tied at 3-3, the three-set battle between Lampl and Hauger became the deciding match. The freshmen were even at 3-3 in the third set, when their teammates gathered courtside and fans filled the stadium seats near Court 5. Lampl rose to the pressure-filled moment and won three consecutive games as she claimed the set 6-3, clinching the victory for the Cardinal.
Stanford next travels to Ojai from April 20-24. Stanford will compete against USC on Wednesday, April 20 and in the Pac-12 Championships throughout the week.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.