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Women’s tennis outlasts Michigan, upsets UNC for spot in final four
Senior Taylor Davidson (front) and freshman Emily Arbuthnott (back) got it done for the Cardinal against Michigan and UNC this weekend, succeeding in doubles as a pair before winning their respective singles matches in both duals. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/isiphotos.com)

Women’s tennis outlasts Michigan, upsets UNC for spot in final four

No. 6 Stanford women’s tennis (25-2) rolled past tenth-seeded Michigan (23-6) 4-1 in the Round of 16 of the NCAA tournament on Friday morning, before upsetting UNC (33-3), the second seed of the tournament on Sunday by a score of 4-2. The duals saw freshman Emily Arbuthnott provide her team-high ninth and 10th clincher this season to propel the Cardinal to victory.

The Cardinal outmuscled Michigan right out of the gate, booking the doubles point after victories at the No. 3 and No. 1 spots. Freshman Emma Higuchi and sophomore Caroline Lampl blanked their opponents on court 3, and senior Taylor Davidson and Arbuthnott put away the point with a 6-1 victory of their own at the top spot.

As singles started, Higuchi doubled Stanford’s lead, cruising to her 21st singles dual win this season. The freshman dominated Valeria Patiuk in two sets, 6-0, 6-2, at the No. 6 spot.

After a hard-fought three-setter, Davidson was able to power through to put Stanford one point away from victory. The North Carolina native improved to a 9-1 record in the NCAA tournament after her 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 triumph on court 3.

Michigan’s only point came from the top spot in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final dual-deciding single. Although senior Caroline Doyle was able to come away with the dual-clinching victory last season, Michigan’s Kate Fahey edged the Cardinal senior this time around by a score of 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

Arbuthnott then clinched the dual for the Cardinal, outlasting Mira Ruder-Hook on court 5, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4. With the win, Arbuthnott improved to a 5-0 record in three-set matches.

When the remaining two games were halted, two Cardinal sophomores were leading in their respective singles. While Lampl was fighting in a second-set tiebreaker after winning her first set 7-5, Melissa Lord was ahead 4-3 in the third set of her game.

Initially scheduled for 9 a.m., Sunday’s quarterfinal game was delayed by almost three hours and moved inside due to rainy weather. The delay didn’t slow the Cardinal down as the team jumped ahead to a 1-0 advantage after taking the doubles point. Davidson and Arbuthnott, ranked 39th in the nation as a pair, were the first to break through, upsetting the fourth-best doubles pair in the country 6-1. Doyle and Lord quickly added another 6-1 win to clinch the doubles point.

The Cardinal’s lead was short lived, however, as Doyle couldn’t slow down North Carolina’s Hayley Carter. The second-ranked Tar Heels tied things at one apiece after a 6-0, 6-1 win.

Playing at the No. 3 spot, Davidson put the Cardinal back on top thanks to a straight-set win. Firing out of the gate, the senior was able to take the first set 6-2 and climbed back from a 4-0 deficit in the second set to take the match 6-2, 7-5.

Despite blowing a 3-0 advantage in the second set of her singles match, Lord eventually outlasted No. 18 Sara Daavettila to put the Cardinal within reach of the upset. However, Lampl was unable to clinch for the Cardinal, falling just short in three sets, 7-5, 2-6, 5-7.

Once again, the clinching point came on court 5 from Arbuthnott. Coming back from a one set deficit, the freshman eventually came out on top. Still undefeated in three setters this season, the freshman punched Stanford’s ticket to the semis with her 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

“I think mentally I was really strong, and I made a good start to the set,” said Arbuthnott. “I just really felt comfortable. It was nice to play aggressively and overall be mentally tough so that I could get a lead and hopefully make her more tired.”

This year, the Cardinal are looking to bring home a 20th program championship — the most in collegiate history — and to preserve their title for the first time since 2004-2006. Stanford now gears up for the semifinals of the NCAA tournament and will face third-seed Ohio State on Monday at 1 p.m. Despite entering the dual as the lower seed, Stanford can be confident in its chances after Sunday’s upset. Moreover, over the last nine years, the team has been ranked higher than No. 5 only once but has won it all three times over that span. In fact, the Cardinal earned their two last titles as 12th (2013) and 15th (2016) seeds.

 

Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.