No. 3 Stanford prevails over tennis rival No. 5 Florida

With the match already clinched, senior Kristie Ahn and junior Ellen Tsay were still playing hard and both recorded come-from-behind victories as No. 3 Stanford downed No. 5 Florida, 7-0, in a highly anticipated rematch of last year's national semifinal match in Illinois.

Ahn and Tsay are examples of the Cardinal mindset that seems to perpetuate itself through the years, leading to two national title in the past four years, and nine in the past 16 years.

The upperclassmen just kept competing, refusing to give in no matter the situation.

Stanford (7-0), with its solid crop of freshmen, may be better than the team that won last year's national title.

The Gators (8-2), who have won two of the past three national titles, are a good barometer for any team seeking to reach the top.

"Florida has very good players up and down the lineup, and they are a little young too, just like we are," Cardinal coach Lele Forood said. "This was just a great team win for us. The doubles set a nice tone, although I don't think it would have been critical had we not won it. We have been finding ourselves, moving the lineup around a bit and were just trying to find out where we need to be."

Sophomore Krista Hardebeck, 4-2 lifetime against the Gators, recorded the clinching point for Stanford against Florida for the second straight meeting. She did it last May in the NCAA semifinals.

"We have all been really excited to play Florida and obviously they are the biggest team we have faced all year," Hardebeck said. "It was especially great for the freshmen to experience such a big match. It's important to get a taste of what it's like against a really top team."

Sunday's result was an uncharacteristic outcome in the hotly contested rivalry. After capturing the doubles point, the Cardinal rattled off three quick victories to clinch the match.

Freshmen Carol Zhao and Taylor Davidson both earned their 14th win of the year. Zhao breezed past Brianna Morgan 6-1, 6-3 at the No. 3 spot, shortly before Davidson made quick work of Sofie Oyen in a 6-2, 6-2 triumph at the No. 4 position.

Ahn came through with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Olivia Janowicz. Trailing for much of the second set, Ahn won the final three games to ensure she would not suffer back-to-back losses for the first time in her career after dropping a 6-4, 7-6 (7) decision on Thursday against Saint Mary's.

Leading 5-0, Tsay and Caroline Doyle were locked in tight matches on the back courts.

In a battle of freshmen at the No. 6 spot, Doyle prevailed for her 16th win of the season, defeating Kourtney Keegan, 6-3, 7-6 (8).

Tsay completed the shutout, outlasting Belinda Woolcock, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 1-0 (4) on court five.

"I was impressed with everyone," Forood said. "Kristie had a great performance at No. 1. It's always an absolute war against (Sofie) Oyen, so I thought that was a good win for Taylor. With the match decided, Ellen was able to pull it out. You can let down in that situation unless you have a lot of personal pride. That's what we did on courts five and six."

Stanford returns to action on Saturday, March 1, visiting California at 1 p.m.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics


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