NCAA Football

Davidson’s three-set thriller sets up Round of 16 match between rivals Stanford, Florida

May 17, 2016

No. 15 Stanford women’s tennis (16-5, 9-1 Pac-12) advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Championships this weekend with victories over Texas A&M Corpus Christi (24-1, 11-0 Southland) and No 19. Texas A&M (17-11, 7-6 SEC) in the first and second rounds, respectively.

Jr. Taylor Davidson. Photo by Rahim Ullah

Taylor Davidson’s (above) three-set victory over Texas A&M’s Rutuja Bhosale clinched the win for Stanford and sent the Cardinal to the Round of 16, where they will face rival Florida on Thursday. Stanford beat the Gators in a 4-3 decision earlier this season. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal easily handled Corpus Christi with a smooth 4-0 victory on Friday afternoon at home in the Taube Family Tennis Center. The second match against Texas A&M, however, tested the team’s limits as it managed to scrape by a 4-3 win.

The pair of wins is a good start for the most successful program in collegiate tennis history as Stanford tries to win an 18th NCAA title over the next few weeks. The Cardinal’s most recent triumph came in 2013, when they won the championship as the 12 seed, becoming the lowest-seeded team to ever win NCAAs. Thus teams ought to not underestimate them in this year’s tournament, in which Stanford has the 15th seed.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi came into Friday’s match as the nation’s only unbeaten team, but the squad was no match for the caliber of play that the Cardinal put forth. 

After securing the doubles point, Stanford made quick work of the singles matches. Senior Krista Hardebeck, ranked No. 100 in the nation, only needed a bit over a half hour to win twelve straight games over Corpus Christi’s Celia Rodriguez in the No. 4 spot. Freshman Melissa Lord provided another win at the No. 6 position.

Junior Carol Zhao, who missed part of the season to train with the Canadian National Team, clinched the match at No. 1 with a 6-2, 6-2 victory. The Cardinal have benefitted greatly from her return: Without Zhao in the lineup, the team went 6-4. Since her return in March, they have earned a 9-1 record.

While the team was able to overwhelm Corpus Christi, No. 19 Texas A&M proved to be a greater challenge on Saturday afternoon.

The Aggies came out fiercely in doubles play, taking the point by winning at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. Even the nationally fifth-ranked duo of juniors Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle was not able to get any momentum going in their 6-2 loss.

While doubles has been a strong point for the team all season, they had bounced back from losing the doubles point three times already this season against strong opponents: Cal, USC and Florida. With its season on the line, the team pulled four wins out of six matches in singles play to defeat the Aggies.

Early on, things were looking good for the Cardinal. Lord recorded a win at the No. 6 position before Hardebeck, who was playing her last match on The Farm, continued her success and won her match handily at the No. 4 position.  She has won 19 of 20 matches since January.

Doyle dropped her match to Rachel Pierson, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 3 to even the score at 2-2. Freshman Caroline Lampl then recorded her team-leading 26th win of the season with a 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory at No. 5 to give Stanford a 3-2 edge.

While the Cardinal only needed one more victory to clinch, they dropped the first set in the two matches that were still on court. Zhao was unable to bounce back from a long tiebreak at the end of the first and lost the second set, 6-1.

With the match knotted at 3-3, all eyes turned to Court 2, as Taylor Davidson, who had filled in for Zhao at No. 1 for most of the season, battled it out with Rutuja Bhosale in a decisive third set.

After going up 4-0 in the third set, Davidson looked poised to close out the match. Bhosale, however, had other ideas and fought back to tie the set at 4-4. After breaking Bhosale’s serve, Davidson held to win the third set 6-4 and secure her team’s spot in the Round of 16.

The Cardinal will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma this week to take on second-seeded Florida in the Round of 16. The last time these two teams met was in February, when Hardebeck won the clinching match in dramatic fashion. The match will showcase the two teams that have won four of the last six national championships.

Contact Yousef Hindy at yhindy ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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