By Alexa Corse
No. 5 Stanford women’s tennis (4-0) rebounded after a slow start against No. 6 Oklahoma State (8-2) on Friday evening, winning 4-1 in a fiercely contested rematch of last year’s NCAA championship.
As she did in the 2016 NCAA final, senior Taylor Davidson yet again clinched the Cardinal’s victory over the Cowgirls with a three-set singles win. Playing at the No. 1 spot, Davidson defeated OSU’s Viktoriya Lushkova 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. The match, held at the new USTA National Campus in Orlando, FL, was the Cardinal’s first competition against a top-10 team this season and comes just prior to a match against No. 1 Florida on Sunday.
“It’s only our fourth match of the year,” head coach Lele Forood told ESPN3. “Moving forward, I think we have a lot of confidence right now.”
Oklahoma State won the doubles point at the start of the match, despite Stanford momentarily holding a 4-3 lead in all three doubles matches. Sophomore Melissa Lord and senior Caroline Doyle took Stanford’s only doubles win with a 6-4 win on court two, but OSU quickly countered with a 7-6(4) victory on court three over freshman Emma Higuchi and sophomore Caroline Lampl.
On court one, senior Taylor Davidson and freshman Emily Arbuthnott failed to convert a match point at 6-5, 40-all, sending the deciding doubles match to a tiebreaker. OSU’s No. 1 doubles converted their first match point, serving at 6-5 in the tiebreak, so the Cowgirls had a 1-0 lead as singles began.
Stanford’s Lampl and Arbuthnott took the first sets on courts four and five, respectively. However, Oklahoma still had the momentum after winning the first sets on the other four courts.
Arbuthnott notched Stanford’s first point with a 6-3, 6-0 win on Court 5. Next, Lampl put Stanford ahead 2-1 by defeating Aliona Bolsova 6-4, 7-6(3). Lampl narrowly avoided splitting sets, defending three set points with Bolsova serving at 6-5, 40-15 in the second set.
“My coaches told me just go for it, and whatever happens happen,” Lampl told ESPN3. “That helped me get my confidence back.”
Lord, who had 3-5 record in third-set matches last year as a freshman, put her experience in hard-fought matches to use on Friday evening. Lord split sets 2-6, 6-3, after breaking Vladica Babic’s serve early in the second set. She then dominated with a 6-0 third set, putting Stanford one singles win shy of victory.
Minutes later, Stanford clinched tiebreakers in the second sets on courts two and six, forcing third sets. Davidson was also battling in a third set on court one, on serve at 2-3.
Although Stanford led 3-1 in the team tally, OSU had the potential to comeback in any of the three ongoing three-setters. However, Lushkova appeared to be favoring her left quad or hamstring and suffered a string of unforced errors. With Lushkova serving at 40-40, 3-3, Davidson broke serve to go up 4-3.
Davidson and Lushkova held serve for the next two games. On her second serve at 5-4, 30-30, Davidson approached after Lushkova hit a short return, but then dropped a backhand volley into the net. At 30-40, Lushkova’s return sailed long, giving Davidson match point at 40-40 due to this season’s new rule of no-add scoring for singles matches.
Doyle and Higuchi were in the lead on courts two and six, respectively, when their matches were suspended because Stanford had already clinched the victory.
Stanford next faces top-ranked Florida on Sunday at 9 a.m. in Gainesville, FL. The teams continue a six-year tradition of hosting each other during the regular season, as they have developed a rivalry since the Cardinal defeated the Gators 4-3 in the 2010 NCAA Championship.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.