National Champions: Stanford claims NCAA women's tennis crown

(Credit: Bill Kallenberg)


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After the Cardinal lost the NCAA women's water polo championship in a sudden-death-overtime heartbreaker to USC, it looked like Stanford Athletics' incredible streak of 36 consecutive years with at least one national title was in serious jeopardy.

But then along came Lele Forood's women's tennis team. Seeded 12th in the 64-team field, the Cardinal outlasted USC in a five-hour classic in the Round of 16, breezed past Georgia in the quarters and squeezed through the semifinals with a 4-3 defeat of Florida, setting up Stanford's best remaining chance of a national championship in the 2012-13 athletic calendar.

And on Tuesday, Kristie Ahn's three-set victory in No. 2 singles clinched the Cardinal's 4-3  over Texas A&M and the 2013 NCAA women's tennis team championship.

Monday night's hero Krista Hardebeck quickly found herself in the midst of more drama in Tuesday's match, as the doubles point came down to her and Natalie Dillon's battle with the Aggies' Deheza twins. Once again, the frosh Hardebeck came through for the Card, as she and Dillon defeated the double-trouble Dehezas 8-5 to put Stanford up 1-0. Good tweeting from Stanford women's tennis SID Brian Risso ensued:

Stacey Tan made it a 2-for-2 day for herself and a 2-0 lead for Stanford in No. 4 singles after beating Ines Deheza (who closed out UCLA the previous night) 7-5, 6-3. This set the stage for one of the strangest results you'll ever see-defending NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs lost the first eight games of her No. 1 singles match against fourth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar before winning the final 12 to take the match 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 to put Stanford up 3-love.

But the Cardinal knew better than to rest on its laurels with a 3-0 lead; Stanford went up 3-0 on Florida in the semifinals before edging the Gators out 4-3. This thing was far from over, and Anna Mamalat began A&M's comeback with a straight-set victory over Ellen Tsay (6-1, 7-5) while Hardebeck's magic ran out in a two-set loss to Nazari Urbina.

Things began to brighten again for the Card when Kristie Ahn fought back from a break down to take charge against Cristina Stancu and build a 5-2 lead. While Ahn was taking command, Stefania Hristov took down Natalie Dillon in three sets to put the Cardinal in their third 4-3 match in four rounds in Urbana.

Ahn didn't let the drama drag on for much longer. Despite Stancu fighting off multiple match points, Ahn made sure the eighth game of the third set was the last one as Stancu's last swing sailed long to give Lele's Ladies their first title since 2010.

Not long after, the congratulations rolled in from all around The Farm:

 

 

The Cardinal aren't done yet in Urbana, as Ahn, Gibbs and Hardebeck are sticking around for the NCAA singles draw. Ahn and Gibbs and Tan and Tsay also will do work on the doubles side of things. The Pac-12 Post will continue its coverage of the NCAA championships with daily updates on the singles and doubles draws on both the men's and women's sides.

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