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Davidson’s third-set heroics carry women’s tennis into NCAA title match
Senior Taylor Davidson battled back from a third-set 4-1 deficit to take match over OSU's Gabriella de Santis. The victory clinched the match for the Cardinal, vaulting them into the NCAA Championship match against No. 1 Florida. (LYNDSAY RADNEDGE/isiphotos.com)

Davidson’s third-set heroics carry women’s tennis into NCAA title match

With the score knotted at three apiece, senior Taylor Davidson delivered in the clutch as she climbed back from a 1-4 third set deficit to propel seventh-seed Stanford women’s tennis (26-2) over third seed Ohio State (32-3) after a nail-bitting tiebreaker. With the upset, the Cardinal makes their way to a second NCAA finals appearance in as many years and will have a chance to defend their 2016 title.

Stanford came back from being down 2-0, and was up 3-2 with two third sets in progress on Courts 3 and 4. On Court 3, sophomore Caroline Lampl was trading games with Ohio State’s Miho Kowase. After the score was tied a 3-3, 4-4 and 5-all, the Cardinal sophomore fell behind 6-5 and eventually dropped the match 3-6, 7-6 (0), 7-5.

Right next to Lampl, Davidson was also fighting in a decisive set against Gabriella de Santis, and went on a 4-1 run to tie things up at 5 games apiece. Despite losing the following game, Stanford’s No. 3 forced a tiebreaker. Once again the two players were alternating winning long rallies, but this time Davidson was the first to establish a lead, as she went ahead in the tiebreaker 6-3.

Failing to capitalize on her first two match points, Davidson was finally able to clinch the dual after a long back-and-forth of deep topspin balls at 6-5. The senior collapsed to the ground as she was mobbed by teammates in a scene reminiscent of her clincher in last year’s national championship match.

Earlier in her match, Davidson had also overcome another deficit, as she had won six straight games to make it back from a 0-4 start in the first set. With her 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) success, the senior has now won 11 NCAA tournament matches with only one loss.

The afternoon had started with a rain delay, and the match was finally moved from Georgia to Georgia Tech’s indoor courts. As doubles play started, the Buckeyes hit the ground running and booked the point thanks to 6-2 and 6-1 wins on Courts 2 and 3, respectively. Ohio State’s Francesca Di Lorenzo, the top-ranked singles player in the nation, then doubled the Buckeyes’ lead as she beat senior Caroline Doyle in two sets, 6-1, 6-0 on the top court.

Emily Arbuthnott was the first Cardinal to get on the scoreboard, as the freshman dominated Sandy Niehaus on Court 5 6-4, 6-3 to half the Ohio State lead. Sophomore Melissa Lord then tied the score at 2-all at the No. 2 spot with a three-set victory over OSU’s Anna Sanford. After dropping the second set of her match, Lord answered in style with four straight games to take a commanding lead in the final set, notching her third consecutive three-set victory of the postseason.

At the bottom spot, Emma Higuchi added a 31st win to her resume, edging Ferny Angeles Paz 7-5 in the second set after a 6-3 first set victory. The freshman is still unbeaten in singles dual play and has won 22 consecutive matches dating back to January, the third-longest streak in program history.

Stanford will probably enjoy a short celebration tonight before preparing to face top-ranked Florida (28-3) for the national championship. The two teams met earlier this season, with the Gators coming away with a 4-1 victory at home.

Heading into the matchup as an underdog, the Cardinal will have to rely on their depth in order to bring home a nation-best 20th title. It will be a comfortable position for the team, however: Last year, Stanford won the title as an underdog, playing in the final as a 15-seed, and the program is 16-2 since 2010 when playing higher-seeded teams in the postseason.

 

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