Carol Zhao made a surprise visit to Stanford and it gave the 16th-ranked Cardinal women's tennis team just the boost it needed in a match that lasted nearly fours.
Senior Krista Hardebeck rallied from a third-set deficit to win and clinch Stanford's 4-3 nonconference victory over visiting Florida on Sunday.
The Cardinal (5-2) opens Pac-12 play on Friday at Arizona and Saturday at Arizona State.
Hardebeck has won the deciding match against the Gators three times in her four years at Stanford. Caroline Doyle gave her the chance after winning a third-set tie-breaker.
"Krista wants to be in that position," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "The scoreboard wasn't working on the back courts and she kept asking 'Is it still alive?' It was important for her to know."
Taylor Davidson helped offset a Cardinal loss in doubles with a quick victory at No. 2 singles. From there, it was another typical match between two of the top women's tennis programs in the country.
Zhao, who played in a professional tournament Saturday, flew into town from San Diego late Saturday night for the match.
"Everybody who has played with her, it was an 'oh yeah' moment," Forood said. "It just worked out with her schedule. It was a good chance to see how we might be later on."
Zhao will miss the next four matches before returning to Stanford.
Zhao, the Cardinal's No. 1 singles player the past two years, was down, 5-4, in the third set before rallying for the win just ahead of Doyle's victory.
Five of the six singles matches went three sets, another indication of what makes this a unique rivalry.
"They are way better than 7 in the nation," Forood said. "The rankings are meaningless right now. They're one of the top three and it was a good measuring stick for us."
Hardebeck has been enjoying a solid season after taking a few bumps.
"She's amazingly resilient and brings a lot to this team," Forood said.
Florida (5-2), which also lost 4-3 at California on Friday, handed Stanford its first doubles loss of the season.
Cardinal freshman Caroline Lampl also lost her first dual match, in three sets, and had a seven-match winning streak end.
Menlo grad Mikey Diekroeger had two hits and drove in a pair of runs, Jonny Locher launched a three-run homer and Brett Hanewich pitched 6 1/3 strong innings Sunday to help Stanford beat host No. 23 Texas, 11-1, and earn a series split.
Stanford, which finished with a season-high 15 hits, improved to 5-3 on the year, with four wins over Top 25 opponents.
The Cardinal got on the board early, with Matt Winaker singling home a pair of runs and Nico Hoerner scoring on a balk.
Hanewich (2-0) stranded five runners over the first three innings. He left runners at third in both the first and third innings with inning-ending strikeouts. He allowed one run and five hits in the game.
Freshman Brandon Wulff, who recorded the first two hits of his career, doubled to deep left center and scored on Bryce Carter's single up the middle to help Stanford add to its lead. Carter scored when Tommy Edman doubled off the 375-foot marker on the left-center field wall.
Carter singled home another run in the eighth, and scored on a two-run double by Diekroeger.
Locher, who entered as a pinch runner in the eighth, lifted one over the left centerfield wall for his homer in the ninth.
Stanford's 11 runs were the most since a 12-6 victory over Cal on April 12 of last season.
The Cardinal returns home for a Tuesday matchup with St. Mary's. First pitch from Sunken Diamond is set for 5:30 p.m.
Stanford hit three home runs in the fourth inning to rally from a six-run deficit, though the Cardinal dropped a 7-4 decision to San Diego State on Sunday at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City.
Stanford (7-7) travels to Hawaii for five games beginning Friday.
Bessie Noll led the team over the five-game weekend, batting .533 (8-for-15) with six RBI, five walks, three doubles, six runs, a home run and a .933 slugging percentage.
Jessica Plaza had a strong weekend, going 6-for-15 (.400) with three RBI, six runs, two doubles and four walks. Lauren Frost (.364), Kayla Bonstrom (.333) and Kylie Sorenson (.333) were also effective offensively.
Stanford found itself in a 6-0 hole after San Diego State (10-5) posted a four-run third inning and followed with a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning.
The Cardinal battled back with solo home runs from Victoria Molina, Lauren Frost and a two-run shot from Kylie Sorenson.
Stanford is seventh through the first round of the three-day, 54-hole Querencia Cabo Collegiate. The Cardinal signed off on a 2-over 286 Sunday at the par-72, 6,928-yard Querencia Golf Club.
Stanford is 12 shots behind leader South Florida (-10) with two rounds remaining while chasing sixth-place Washington (+1) and fifth-place Florida State (E).
David Boote and Viraat Badhwar each carried the Cardinal with a 2-under 69. Boote was bogey-free after his fourth hole. Badhwar opened par-double-par-bogey, recovering with five birdies over his next 14 holes.
Brandon Wu (+2), Maverick McNealy (+4) and Isaiah Salinda (+8) also are competing for the Cardinal. McNealy and Salinda each were 1-under on the back nine.
The Stanford Cardinal team completed the Jeremy McIntyre Tesm Race with a record of 9-0 over the weekend at the Redwood City Lagoon.
The Stanford White placed third with a 7-2 mark.
Skippers for the Cardinal included Luke Muller, William Marshall, Axel Sly and Reiner Eenkema Van Dijk.
Crew members included Cassie Obel, Maggie Schult, John Cannastraro and Sarah Placek.
White team skippers included Maeve White, Martina Sly and Lily Katz.
Crew members included Elena VandenBerg, Kathryn Booker and Yuli Yoshiyasu.
Women's water polo
No. 4 Stanford took third at the UC Irvine Invitational on Sunday, dropping a close 7-6 decision to No. 1 USC in a morning semifinal before bouncing back to ease by No. 6 Hawaii in the afternoon, 13-7.
Gurpreet Sohi and Kat Klass each had four goals in the two games and Julia Hermann made 14 saves in the cage as the Cardinal moved to 12-2 on the year.
Stanford, which has completed its nonconference tournaments, plays at San Jose State next Saturday before taking a two-week break to focus on final exams.