Two weeks ago, Caroline Lampl outlasted fellow freshman Olivia Hauger in a three-set victory that -- at that moment -- didn't appear to mean very much with California having already clinched.
Lampl and Hauger faced off again on Saturday. And this time, it mattered.
Clinching her team-best fifth match of the season, Lampl defeated Hauger, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, on court five to lift No. 17 Stanford past No. 1 California, 4-3, in what might be the regular-season finale for both teams.
"Might", in that Stanford (13-5, 8-1 Pac-12) could possibly have one more match to play. If UCLA (14-5, 6-2 Pac-12) beats USC (11-4, 6-0 Pac-12) on Sunday afternoon, Stanford would be crowned the outright Pac-12 champion and claim its first conference crown since 2012. A victory by USC means the Cardinal and Trojans will be playing a winner-take-all match on Wednesday in Ojai, before the Pac-12 Championships get underway.
California (19-1, 7-1 Pac-12) is done. The Golden Bears entered as the nation's only unbeaten team and they'll have to hope that resume still looks shiny enough to merit consideration as the top seed in the NCAA Championships. Most likely, it will.
Even with the Golden Bears riding their best start in school history, Saturday's match really didn't feel as lopsided as it looked on paper. After all, the Cardinal has now won 11 of the past 16 meetings against the Golden Bears, including each of the past two seasons in the NCAA Round of 16.
More importantly, Stanford entered the week as a borderline candidate to host NCAA first and second rounds. The Cardinal certainly appears to be a lock now, as the only team in the country to beat California while also having pocketed key wins over Florida, TCU and UCLA.
Stanford's top freshman this season, Lampl introduced herself to the Bay Area rivalry in dramatic fashion while notching her 20th overall victory of the season and remaining unbeaten in 11 matches against Pac-12 opponents.
Lampl's match only mattered because Caroline Doyle was able to grind out an even more dramatic 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over Lynn Chi at the No. 3 position. How clutch was Doyle? She trailed 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set, and eventually had to fight off five match points in the deciding tiebreaker.
California jumped out to a 1-0 lead, representing only the fourth time this season Stanford has lost the doubles point. It was the second time this season the Cardinal rebounded after losing the doubles point, also accomplishing the feat in a 4-3 win over No. 7 Florida on Feb. 28.
Carol Zhao evened the match at 1-1 with a dominating 6-1, 6-4 victory over 10th-ranked Maegan Manasse at the top spot of the lineup. Zhao, whose only loss of the season came to Manasse two weeks ago, has won seven of eight matches this season. Stanford is 7-1 with Zhao in the lineup and 6-4 without.
Stanford moved in front 2-1 after senior Krista Hardebeck extended her winning streak to 15 with a commanding 6-2, 6-3 over Denise Starr on court four. Hardebeck has won a team-leading 21 matches overall, improved to 17-1 in duals and not suffered a loss since Jan. 30.
Klara Fabikova defeated Taylor Davidson 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 2 spot, evening the match at 2-2.
Doyle's victory put Stanford briefly in front at 3-2 before Karla Popovic took down Melissa Lord 7-6 (1), 7-5 on court six.
Tied at 3, the attention shifted to Lampl's match on court five. Trailing 3-2 in the final set, Lampl ripped off four straight games, repeatedly blistering winners past Hauger.
Stanford will now await the result of Sunday's UCLA-USC match, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks. Regardless, the Cardinal's postseason status looks much different today than it did earlier in the week.