By Alexa Corse
No. 5 Stanford (4-1) came up short against No. 1 Florida (8-0) on Sunday, falling 4-1 in the latest chapter of the fiercest rivalry in college women’s tennis.
The Cardinal finished 1-1 in their first two matches against top-10 teams this season. On Friday, Stanford defeated OSU 4-1 in Orlando, a rematch of last year’s NCAA final. Two days later, the Gators fended off the Cardinal’s chances to secure the momentum in Gainesville, Florida.
Florida claimed the doubles point after jumping to early leads on two courts. On court three, sophomore Caroline Lampl and freshman Emma Higuchi fell 6-1 to Florida’s Josie Kuhlman and Belinda Woolcock.
On court one, senior Taylor Davidson and freshman Emily Arbuthnott nearly had a comeback after being down 0-4. But Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan fended off Davidson’s formidable net presence, clinching 6-3 to put the Gators ahead 1-0 in the dual match.
Once singles began, No. 45 Ingrid Neel put Florida ahead 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 38 Caroline Doyle on court two. However, Stanford either had the lead or was in tight battles on the other five courts.
On court six, Higuchi was relentless. The freshman dispatched No. 41 Spencer Liang 6-2, 6-1, Stanford’s sole point of the dual match.
On court four, No. 75 Lampl faced off against Austin, who is 2016 SEC player of the year and earned a winning record as Florida’s No. 1 singles player during the 2016 and 2015 seasons. Lampl won the first set 6-2, but Austin took the second set 6-1.
In the third set, Lampl rebounded from a 0-3 deficit as she won five consecutive games, including crucially breaking Austin’s serve at 40-40, 3-3. Lampl had two point match points at 5-4, but was broken at 40-40 when Austin called a powerful, inside-out forehand just wide. Austin closed the set 7-5, bringing the Gators one singles match shy of victory.
The Gators kept the momentum as Stanford’s Davidson and Lord each found themselves down two breaks at 0-3 in the third sets. No. 40 Woolcock outlasted Davidson 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 on court one, clinching the Gators’ victory. Florida extended its winning streak at home to 163 matches, topped only by Stanford’s 184-match winning streak at home from 1999-2011.
In a good sign for Stanford, freshman Arbuthnott battled closely with Florida’s standout sophomore Josie Kuhlman, who is ranked No. 19 nationally. The match was suspended since the Gators had already claimed four points. However, Arbuthnott, ranked No. 59, held on despite losing the first set 7-6 (4). In a pressure-filled moment serving at 40-40, 2-4 in the second set, Arbuthnott came out on top. She then evened the score to 4-4 before the match was suspended with Kuhlman up 5-4.
Stanford next hosts No. 12 Vanderbilt on Sunday, also expected to be among the Cardinal’s most competitive matches this season.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.