Sports

Hardebeck sets the tone in Stanford's NCAA tennis victory

 

Junior Krista Hardebeck knows all about the pressures of the NCAA women's tennis tournament. It's one of the reasons she enjoys this time of the year.

Hardebeck played swiftly and confidently in beating Adey Osabuohien, 6-0, 6-0, to walk off the court first and set the tone for the rest of her teammates.

She helped No. 14 Stanford beat visiting Stony Brook, 4-0, in the first round of the postseason tourney at the Taube Family Tennis Center on Friday.

The Cardinal (16-5) meets Pepperdine at 2 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the Round of 16 at Baylor University next week. The Waves beat Auburn, 4-2, in another first-round match.

"We haven't played for a couple of weeks and everybody has been focusing on the NCAAs," Hardebeck said. "We all know what we need to do and we all know what we are capable of doing."

Stanford, seeded 14th, always believes it can play in the championship match, even in a year when there is virtually no margin for error.

There are six scholarship players on the roster and three walk-ons, which include Castilleja grad Paulette Wolak, who appeared in her first postseason doubles match, paired with Hardebeck at No. 3 doubles.

Wolak was injured near the end of her match when she aggressively went after a ball near the net and got herself twisted around. She continued to play until the match was abandoned after the Cardinal clinched the doubles point.

"It took her three or four months to be able to hit with people," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "She doesn't have the same experience as our other players but she worked hard on it. She put in extra time with the ball machine."

Ellen Tsay, the lone senior on the team, gave Stanford a 3-0 lead when she dispatched Elizabeth Tsvetkov, 6-1, 6-1, at No. 5 singles.

Carol Zhao clinched the match at No. 1 singles, overcoming a slow start to beat Polina Movchan, one of two seniors for the Seawolves, 6-2, 6-1.

Taylor Davidson, Caroline Doyle and Lindsey Kostas each won their first set and were playing well into the second set when the match ended.

Hardebeck helped the Cardinal win the national title as a freshman and clinched Stanford's dramatic victory over Florida in the semifinals, even after she lost the first set and fell behind 5-1 in the second.

"I've gotten that experience a few times," said Hardebeck, who has won 18 matches. "I'm happy just to be fighting along with my teammates."

The Stanford-Pepperdine winner will most likely meet No. 3 California in the Round of 16. The Cardinal has lost twice to the Bears, 4-3 and 5-2, this season. At tournament time, though, all bets are off.

Men's tennis

Freshman David Wilczynski made a little school history this season, becoming the first player to appear in all six spots of the singles ladder this season. He's starting to build on that legacy now that the NCAA tournament has begun.

Faced with his first postseason assignment on Friday, Wilczynski passed that test as well.

Grinding out a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory at the No. 3 spot, Wilczynski clinched No. 23 Stanford's 4-2 victory over No. 41 Tennessee on Friday morning in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Making its 36th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, Stanford (18-6) advanced to the second round and will play host No. 10 Duke, a 4-0 winner over South Carolina State, on Saturday at 10 a.m. PT.

Opening postseason play on the road for the third consecutive season, the Cardinal secured its first NCAA tournament victory since a quarterfinal showing in 2012.

For only the second time this season, Stanford won a match despite losing the doubles point. The Cardinal edged Cal 4-3 on Feb. 21 after also falling behind 1-0.

Wilczynski might not have been the ideal candidate for a clincher, having won only one match over the last month and owning a 3-5 record in three-setters. But the rookie also has racked up 21 victories, which rank third on the squad, and his experience playing up and down lineup proved crucial on Friday.

Stanford needed that type of gritty play after losing the doubles point for the first time in 14 matches. With Tennessee (14-13) leading 1-0, the Cardinal cleaned up at the bottom of the lineup to take control.

Nolan Paige outlasted Andrew Dromsky 6-2, 7-5 at the No. 6 spot and Robert Stineman followed with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Jess Jones at the No. 5 position, putting Stanford in front 2-1.

Playing two spots higher in the lineup at No. 4, David Hsu won his 11th consecutive match when he outlasted Luis Valero 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and increased the Cardinal's lead to 3-1.

Mikelis Libietis kept Tennessee within striking distance, putting away Tom Fawcett 6-4, 7-6 (6) in a battle of players ranked among the top-30 at the top of the lineup.

With the Volunteers gaining momentum and leading 4-1 at the No. 2 spot, Wilczynski polished off his match to secure the win.

Stanford and Tennessee were hooking up for the first time since 2001, when the Volunteers posted a 4-2 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Cardinal improved to 5-1 in the all-time series.

Stanford owns a 104-20 all-time record in the postseason. The Cardinal has won 17 NCAA championships, including 15 since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1977. The most recent crown came back in 2000, when Stanford blanked VCU 4-0.

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