NCAA women's tennis: Stanford advances to national championship match
There's nothing quite like two semifinal matches simultaneously coming down to the third set on the last court. When it was all said and done on Monday, the Pac-12 and SEC proved to be equal women's tennis foes in Urbana, Ill., as No. 12 Stanford upset No. 1 Florida 4-3 and No. 3 Texas A&M got past No. 7 UCLA 4-3 to set the table for Tuesday's 3 p.m. PT national championship match.
For the 22nd time in 25 matches, Stanford has won doubles. Team quickly off court, now talking singles. All business. twitter.com/StanfordWTenni…
— StanfordWTennis (@StanfordWTennis) May 20, 2013
Then it was time for the No. 1 singles match everyone wanted to see: Defending NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs against the current top-ranked singles player in Florida's Lauren Embree. However, it turned out to be not much of a match at all-Gibbs nearly went Boatrace City on Embree, defeating the Gator 6-0, 6-1. And when Ahn defeated Sofie Oyen 6-1, 6-4, the Card found themselves up 3-0. This one was over!
But being up 3-0 in tennis isn't quite like being up 3-0 in baseball, basketball or hockey. While Gibbs and Ahn were steamrolling their competition, the Gators were building leads on the other four singles courts. Not long after Ahn pushed Florida to the brink of elimination, Brianna Morgan sat down Stacey Tan 6-1, 6-3 and Caroline Hitimana got past a first-set hiccup to trump Natalie Dillon 1-6, 6-1, 6-0. That 3-0 became 3-2 real quick, and 3-3 followed a while after once Olivia Janowicz took down Tsay (no Tsay of relief this time) in three sets, setting the stage for freshman Krista Hardebeck (Stanford) v. sophomore Alexandra Cercone (Florida), each of whom had a won a set 7-6 to lead up the end-all, be-all.
What looked to be another nailbiter of a set turned for the better for Bernard Muir and Co. when Hardebeck, who lost to Cercone in a singles match in that 4-2 Florida triumph, broke Cercone at 3-3. Holding her own serve and then getting to match point on Cercone's, Stanford's top tennis player by singles victories ended a long rally with a wonderfully placed volley deep in the corner to send Nerd Nation into celebration:
The natty. The 'ship. Thanks to Krista Hardebeck's second straight clincher, Stanford is headed there. twitter.com/StanfordWTenni…
— StanfordWTennis (@StanfordWTennis) May 21, 2013
Down a set, Chanelle Van Nguyen fought back to take a long deuce set off Ines Deheza (whose twin sister Paula equals as her doubles partner). That brought it down to the all decisive third set, a set that did not start off to Van Nguyen's liking after getting down a break 2-0. But, showing off that grit she displayed in the second set, Van Nguyen broke Deheza back twice in a row to take a 4-2 lead. With the serve and a triple-game point, it looked like Van Nguyen had finally worn out Deheza, but the frosh from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, roared back for the fourth break in seven games. That proved to be the turning point, and while Van Nguyen nearly fought back from a triple match point, Deheza claimed the third set 6-4, continuing the Aggies' postseason theme of stepping into further uncharted territory by ripping a forehand deep in the corner of which Van Nguyen could only get a piece.
— Aggie Women's Tennis (@AggieWTEN) May 21, 2013
The SEC/Pac-12 debate will have to wait one more day.