The 15th-seeded Stanford women's tennis team opened NCAA tournament action Friday by handing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi its first loss of the season, 4-0, at the Taube Family Tennis Center.
The Cardinal (15-5), which had not played in three weeks, meet Texas A&M in Saturday's second round. The winner advances to the Round of 16 in Tulsa next weekend.
Back in action for the first time in three weeks, No. 15 Stanford easily dispatched of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4-0 on Friday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The Aggies (17-10) blanked Denver 4-0 in an earlier match.
The Cardinal has been ranked as high as No. 7 and as low as No. 23 this season before closing strong with four straight wins and a Pac-12 title.
Stanford won the doubles point and overwhelmed the Islanders (24-0), who were the last unbeaten team in the country.
Krista Hardebeck quickly built the lead to 2-0, needing 35 minutes to breeze past Celia Rodriguez, 6-0, 6-0, at the No. 4 spot. It was the fourth time in Hardebeck's career she had not surrendered a game over two sets.
Melissa Lord earned her 20th victory of the season, taking down Kerry Galhos, 6-0, 6-2, on court six to extend Stanford's lead to 3-0.
Carol Zhao delivered a 6-2, 6-2 victory at the top of the ladder, in her 10th match of the season, to clinch the victory. The Cardinal is 9-1 with Zhao, last year's NCAA singles national runner-up, in the lineup.
Stanford owns a 137-18 all-time record in the postseason since the NCAA tournament went to its present format in 1982. Stanford remains a strong contender for the national championship regardless of its seed. The Cardinal has won 10 of its last 12 NCAA tournament matches when seeded lower than its opponent.
Three years ago, at Illinois, the No. 12 Cardinal became the lowest-seeded team to win an NCAA title, knocking off No. 5 USC, No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 Florida before beating No. 3 Texas A&M, Saturday's opponent, in the final.
Elizabeth Cusick scored four goals, a dominant defense and finesse in the penalty kill helped No. 9 Stanford record its second NCAA tournament victory in program history, beating James Madison, 9-8, Friday at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
The Cardinal (15-4) recovered from an early 2-1 deficit with five unanswered goals and a 6-2 advantage.
A key moment in the first half occured when a Dukes' goal was called back because of an illegal stick.
James Madison (10-10) remained competitive and had a 7-5 edge in draws in the first half. Cusick provided some offensive magic, netting three of her four goals to pave the way. Stanford outshot the Dukes, 13-8.
The Cardinal made a tactical adjustment in the second half and won 6 of 7 draw controls the rest of the way.
After the Dukes tied the score at 6, Stanford answered with three goals over the next three minutes, with Kelly Myers and Alex Poplawski chiming in on offense.
While JMU put up 35 to Stanford's 19 fouls, the Cardinal saw four yellow cards in the game and managed to kill three of them unscathed. The Dukes scored two more in the last nine minutes to make it 9-8, but the potent Cardinal defense locked it down for the win.
Stanford's tourney run continues as it sets to take on host and fifth-ranked USC for the third time this season. Game time is set for noon at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.