NCAA Women's Tennis Championships: Stanford, Cal both advance to quarterfinals

Stanford and Cal have moved on to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships following quarterfinal victories Thursday in Tulsa, Okla. The Cardinal and Golden Bears women's tennis teams will next be in action on Saturday, taking a day off from competition while the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships have their round-of-16 matches on Friday.

Stanford

Another Gators-Cardinal NCAA tournament match, another classic -- No. 15 seeded Stanford outlasted top-ranked and No. 2 seeded Florida 4-3 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships, marking the 11th time in the last 13 tries that Stanford has defeated a higher-seeded team in the NCAA postseason.

Florida cruised to the singles point and looked to be in good position to go up 2-0 on court six, but Stanford freshman Melissa Lord came through with a critical break down a set and trailing 5-4 in the second to eventually force a decisive third set. In the meantime, veteran junior and first team All-Pac-12er Carol Zhao unseated Brooke Austin, the No. 4-ranked singles player in the nation and first team all-SEC honoree, in straight sets, while Caroline Lampl followed up with a 6-4, 6-4 win of her own on court five to put the Cardinal ahead 2-1 in the match. As you can tell, Gators Twitter was getting a little nervous.

But this is Florida-Stanford, teams that have met in the NCAA finals nine times, including back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011. Five of the last nine meetings coming in had been decided by a 4-3 result -- this was far from over. Flordia's Kourtney Keegan took court four in three sets from Krista Hardebeck to level things at 2-2. By this time, Lord had taken a third-set lead on court six, while courts two and three were nearing the end of their second sets after Florida's Belinda Woolcock and Brianna Morgan took first-set tiebreakers. Morgan was the first to strike, taking down Caroline Doyle 7-6, 6-3 on court three to give the Gators a 3-2 lead. But Lord quickly responded by closing out Anna Danilina in the third set on six, meaning we were heading to a decider on court two between Woolcock and Stanford's Taylor Davidson:

The third set was just underway by the time all eyes turned to Woolcock-Davidson, a battle of all-conference honorees. Second team all-Pac-12er Davidson broke serve out of the gates, which started a trend of five consecutive breaks. Luckily for the Cardinal, Davidson was the first to hold serve and took a 4-2 lead. She served for match point up 40-30 with a 5-2 set lead, but the first team all-SECer fought back to break and keep the match alive. No matter, though, as Davidson did what she did all third set long -- break serve. The junior from North Carolina won all five games on Woolcock's serve in the third set to claim the match 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 and give the Cardinal the hard-fought win over arguably its biggest rival.

It was the fifth time this year Stanford had won after dropping the doubles point. The Cardinal moves on to face the Michigan -- a 4-3 winner over Miami -- in the quarters.

California

There were no such dramatics in the round-of-16 contest involving the other Pac-12 Bay Area school, as top-seeded Cal breezed past No. 16 Texas Tech 4-0. The only frustrating part of the day is that the match started more than 3 hours after it was scheduled to begin due to rainy conditions at Tulsa.

The Golden Bears earned the doubles point with a pair of 6-2 victories from the tandems of Lynn Chi/Maria Smith and Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger on courts three and two, respectively. The good times rolled into singles play, as Cal claimed the first set on all six courts. Reigning Pac-12 singles champ Megan Manasse ran into some resistance on court one, falling behind 5-0 in the second set to Sarah Dvorak, but head coach Amanda Augustus' Bears were in control everywhere else. 

It was merely a race to see who would finish first and who would get the clinching point. Denise Starr beat her teammates into the clubhouse with 6-4, 6-2 win over Felicity Maltby on No. 4 thanks to this match-clinching point:

Chi was next, winning by a matching 6-4, 6-2 score on No. 3 almost immediately after. Just minutes later, Gabriela Talaba's shot went long, allowing Fabikova to clinch the match on No. 2 with a 6-3, 6-2 result:

This is the Golden Bears' first trip to the NCAA quarterfinals since 2013, when they lost to Florida 4-2 in the round of eight. Cal lost to Stanford 4-3 each of the last two seasons in the quarterfinals.

 

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