Stanford rallies past UCLA for Pac-12 Women’s Tennis tourney title
OJAI, Calif. – For the second time in as many meetings this season, top seeded STANFORD bounced back from an early doubles deficit to knock off No. 2 seed UCLA, 4-2, and capture the second annual Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Tournament team championship at Libbey Park in Ojai, Calif., on Saturday.
The Cardinal have now earned the Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship for the third consecutive year after winning the inaugural team tournament crown last season and the league’s regular-season title in 2016.
Stanford (18-3) posted a 4-3 comeback victory over UCLA (20-5) in both teams’ Conference opener in early March and Saturday’s finale began in similar fashion with the Bruins taking an early advantage with the doubles point.
Just as it did roughly two months earlier, the Cardinal rallied in singles and clinched victory behind a grinding three-set triumph from No. 4 Emily Arbuthnott. Arbuthnott clinched the repeat Pac-12 crown on Saturday with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over her UCLA opponent, just as she did in the league opener that eventually launched the Cardinal to their second straight unbeaten Pac-12 campaign.
“I was a bit disappointed with my performance in some of the doubles at the end so I really wanted to redeem myself in singles,” said Arbuthnott. “I struggled a little bit in the first set, but I think I came back really strong and I’m just so happy I managed stay confident at the end and push through and win that match for the team.”
The doubles point came down to a thrilling top court match between UCLA’s Jada Hart and Terri Fleming and Stanford’s Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon. There were four lead changes and neither team led by more than two in the 16-point tiebreak, with Hart providing the winner to give the Bruins a 1-0 advantage.
The Cardinal quickly responded in singles with straight-set victories from No. 2 Melissa Lord (6-1, 7-5) and No. 6 Emma Higuchi (6-4, 7-6) to take a 2-1 lead in the dual match. UCLA drew even at 2-2 behind Ena Shibahara’s three-set triumph on the top court.
Stanford moved within a point of the title after Caroline Lampl outlasted Fleming in a three-set tiebreak (3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) at the third flight. Arbuthnott then clinched the repeat crown with her three-set bounce back against Abi Altick at No. 4.
On top of Arbuthnott’s repeat clutch performance, Cardinal head coach Lele Forood also highlighted the early singles performances in the come-from-behind victory. "Everybody stood out, but you know you can never overlook the people who give you those quick two setters. I think Higuchi at 6 and Lord at 2 put us on the board early and then the rest of the matches we had to fight back in second sets. People who are first off, to me, are always MVPs.”
Stanford, which snapped UCLA’s 11-match winning streak, won its 14th consecutive match overall and 29th in a row against Conference competition. Both nationally ranked teams now turn their attention to the NCAA Championship, with No. 16 Stanford hopeful it played its way into first-round hosting duties with Saturday’s victory over No. 13 UCLA.
“We had to show a lot of perseverance and a lot of good tennis today because that’s a very talented UCLA team and we’ve had some battles with them. Today was a huge battle,” said Forood. “I hope that solidified our chance to host because that would be a big deal for us and we like to play in front of our crowd for the first two rounds. We’re hoping that pretty much sealed it."
The field for the 2018 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship will announced on the NCAA.com Selection Show on Tuesday, May 1 at 2 p.m. PT.
2018 PAC-12 WOMEN'S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
No. 1 Stanford 4, No. 2 UCLA 2 (LIBBEY)
1. Terri Fleming/Jada Hart, UCLA def. Emily Arbuthnott/Michaela Gordon, STAN – 7-6 (9-7)
2. Caroline Lampl/Kimberly Yee, STAN def. Gabby Andrews/Ayan Broomfield, UCLA – 6-4
3. Alaina Miller/Ena Shibahara, UCLA def. Melissa Lord/Janice Shin, STAN – 6-4
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
1. Ena Shibahara, UCLA def. Michaela Gordon, STAN – 2-1 (6-2, 1-6, 6-4)
2. Melissa Lord, STAN def. Jada Hart, UCLA – 2-0 (6-1, 7-5)
3. Caroline Lampl, STAN def. Terri Fleming, UCLA – 2-1 (3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4))
4. Emily Arbuthnott, STAN def. Abi Altick, UCLA – 2-1 (4-6, 6-1, 6-2)
5. Janice Shin, STAN vs. Ayan Broomfield, UCLA – 7-5, 6-6 Abandoned
6. Emma Higuchi, STAN def. Alaina Miller, UCLA – 2-0 (6-4, 7-6 (5))
Order of finish: 2, 6, 1, 3, 4