April 21, 2012
STANFORD, Calif.- One week ago, Stanford found itself in a rare spot. The Cardinal had just suffered its first regular-season home loss in 13 years, falling 5-2 to top-ranked UCLA in a match that was controlled from start to finish. The Cardinal's undefeated season was history, and its chances for a conference championship took a hit.
But thanks to Saturday's resilient 4-3 victory over No. 10 California in Zoom Marketing's Spring Smash and UCLA's 4-3 home loss yesterday, Stanford finds itself in a very familiar position: on the verge of solidifying its status as the Pac-12's top team.
No. 5 Stanford (17-1, 8-1 Pac-12) will now have an opportunity to join USC (20-3, 9-1 Pac-12) as conference co-champions, should the Cardinal defeat Washington State (18-5, 6-3 Pac-12) next week in a neutral site contest at Ojai, Calif., site of the Pac-12 Championships. The Cardinal and Cougars are forced to play a make-up match after their March 24 contest was rained out.
Stanford defeated USC 4-2 last week at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, so the Cardinal would own the head-to-head tiebreaker used to determine the Pac-12's automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament. Both schools are postseason locks.
That the Cardinal is in position to retain its standing as the Pac-12's top team isn't much of a surprise. After all, Stanford has won the conference title outright or claimed at least a share of the hardware in every season since 1987, with the exception of 2009. However, considering Stanford has played essentially its entire season without the services of All-American Kristie Ahn, this year's journey is still impressive.
Sweeping the season series against California (17-6, 8-2 Pac-12) and winning its sixth straight match over the Golden Bears overall, Stanford was able to shake off last week's loss to the Bruins.
The Cardinal was sharp from the outset, capturing the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead. The No. 3 duo of Natalie Dillon and Veronica Li cruised to an 8-2 win on court three, before Cal's No. 2 team of Annie Goransson and Annet Schutting countered with an 8-2 victory over Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay.
Those results shifted the pressure over to court one, where Cal's team of Jana Juricova and Zsofi Susanyi battled back for a 6-6 tie after falling behind 5-2 against Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs. However, Burdette held serve to put the Cardinal in front 7-6 before Gibbs's deep baseline shot proved too much to handle as Stanford pulled out an 8-6 win.
Burdette then continued her recent singles dominance, quickly putting Stanford ahead 2-0 following a 6-2, 6-4 win over Susanyi at the No. 2 spot. Burdette, who improved to a team-leading 31-4 overall en route to winning her 17th consecutive match, has not surrendered more than four games in a set since March 30.
California picked up its first point on court five, as Goransson contributed a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Li to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Minutes later, Tan booked a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Schutting at the No. 3 spot to extend Stanford's lead to 3-1. Tan has now won two of three matches against Schutting this year, also prevailing 7-5, 6-3 back on Oct. 23 at the ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
The Golden Bears briefly hung in the match, receiving a 6-4, 6-2 win from Cecilia Estlander at No. 6 over Dillon.
Leading 3-2, Gibbs provided the clincher with a 7-6 (2), 6-2 triumph over Juricova in a battle of highly-ranked players at the top spot of the lineup. Shaking off a challenging first set, fourth-ranked Gibbs jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second frame over sixth-ranked Juricova before securing the victory.
California recorded its third point when Davis outlasted Tsay 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (7) on court four.
Li was honored with a Senior Day tribute at the start of the match. Stanford's only senior, Li has compiled a 78-34 overall singles record and is 73-24 in doubles play during her time on The Farm.
Stanford will play Washington State on Wednesday, April 25, at 11:30 a.m. in Ojai, Calif. The Pac-12 Championships get underway the following day, with competition wrapping up Sunday, April 29.
No. 5 Stanford 4, No. 10 California 3
1) No. 2 Burdette/Gibbs (STAN) d. No. 15 Juricova/Susanyi (CAL) 8-6
2) No. 5 Goransson/Schutting (CAL) d. No. 29 Tan/Tsay (STAN) 8-2
3) Dillon/Li (STAN) d. Davis/Alice Duranteau (CAL) 8-2
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1
1) No. 4 Nicole Gibbs (STAN) d. No. 6 Jana Juricova (CAL) 7-6 (2), 6-2
2) No. 5 Mallory Burdette (STAN) d. No. 11 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) 6-2, 6-4
3) No. 54 Stacey Tan (STAN) d. No. 93 Anett Schutting (CAL) 6-3, 6-2
4) No. 57 Tayler Davis (CAL) d. No. 61 Ellen Tsay (STAN) 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (7)
5) No. 79 Annie Goransson (CAL) d. Veronica Li (STAN) 6-1, 6-0
6) Cecilia Estlander (CAL) d. Natalie Dillon (STAN) 6-4, 6-2
Order of Finish: 2, 5, 3, 6, 1, 4