By Shan Reddy
The No. 3 Stanford women’s tennis team (25-1, 10-0 Pac-12) defeated the No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks (21-5, 7-2 Big-12) on Friday in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Tennis Championships. The Cardinal came out on top in a close 4-3 battle that was clinched by sophomore Janice Shin in a three-set battle with Nina Khmelnitckaia (3-6, 6-4, 6-2).
The No. 12 Stanford men’s tennis team (19-7, 5-3 Pac-12), however, fell to No. 8 Virginia (24-4, 10-2 ACC) in the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Tennis Championships on Saturday, putting an end to the Cardinal’s winningest season since 2003.
The women’s team’s final home match this season was the latest of 62 wins in 65 consecutive home contests, and the team’s 20th-straight win.
After Kansas got out to an early one-point lead, the Cardinal seniors answered with back-to-back straight-set singles victories from No. 66 Caroline Lampl and No. 29 Melissa Lord. Lampl finished her career on the Farm spectacularly, winning the last 22 of her matches with the Cardinal.
The score tied up at 3-3 after junior No. 44 Emily Arbuthnott defeated Sonia Smagina (5-7, 6-1, 6-4) and sophomore No. 24 Michaela Gordon, recently named 2019 Pac-12 Singles Player of the Year, fell to the Jayhawks’ top player No. 13 Anastasia Rychagova (4-6, 6-4, 6-4). Sophomore Janice Shin provided the clincher, battling back after dropping the first set to Khmelnitckaia (3-6, 6-4, 6-2) to advance the Cardinal to the Round of 8.
Building momentum early, Virginia kicked off the day against the men’s team with a doubles win as No. 33 Wiersholm/Nakashima defeated Stanford’s top doubles duo in No. 21 Axel Geller/Alexandre Rotsaert (6-2). Rain forced the match indoors; the teams headed to the Boar’s Head Resort a few miles away from Virginia’s Snyder Tennis Center to play out the rest of the matches. As the weather turned, so did the tide — at least for a while.
The Cardinal got a boost as sophomore Timothy Sah and senior captain Sameer Kumar each grabbed singles wins to put Stanford up 2-1. For Kumar, the match was his last with the Cardinal.
The Cavaliers’ shock didn’t last long however; those two wins would ultimately be the only Stanford would put up on the day.
After freshman No. 63 Alexandre Rotsaert fell to 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year Brandon Nakashima (6-1, 4-6, 6-3) and freshman Sangeet Sridhar dropped a close singles match to senior Aswin Lizen (7-6, 6-2), the Cavaliers only needed one more to leave with a win.
The deciding match was a showdown of the team’s two top players in sophomore No. 13 Axel Geller and junior No. 3 Carl Söderlund. Söderlund looked unstoppable, sweeping the first set before taking five straight in the second. With only one more game to go for the 2019 ACC Singles Player of the Year to clinch a spot in the Round of 8, Geller stormed back, winning seven straight games to win the second set, tying the match up at one set each. Söderlund called a five-minute break after the second set and left the court to rally himself. He came back in the third to end the day in commanding fashion (6-0, 5-7, 6-1).
“That was just pure maturity, professionalism, discipline, emotional intelligence,” said Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso of the win. “I can’t say enough about how much of a mental win that was for him to be up 6-0, 5-0, and to lose the lead and to still find a way to come back in the third. No one would have known that he lost the second set by the way his body language was in the third — just an incredible win by Carl.”
Though the Stanford men’s tennis season came to a close, the women’s team is set to play their final home match of the season on Sunday for a spot in the Round of 8. The Cardinal will travel to the USTA National Campus in Orlando for an 11 a.m. quarterfinal match against No. 6 Pepperdine on Friday.
Contact Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu.