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Stanford women topple Florida, advance in NCAA tennis

 

Any time Stanford and Florida share the same tennis court, there's bound to be dramatic moments, unexpected results and outstanding tennis.

Such was the case in the Round of 16 of the NCAA women's tournament on Thursday as the 15th-seeded Cardinal edged No. 2 seed Florida, 4-3, in Tulsa, Okla.

Stanford will meet Michigan in Saturday's quarterfinal round. The Wolverines knocked off No. 7 seed Miami, 4-3.

Every point in every game and every set were hard to come by for both teams. The level of competitiveness matched the intensity of the cross-country rivalry.

It all came down to one match, which is usually the case for two of the top programs in the nation.

Playing at No. 2 singles, junior Taylor Davidson dropped the first set in a tiebreaker to Belinda Woolcock, but then came back to win the second set. The third match was tied, 1-1, when Stanford freshman Melissa Lord won her match to deadlock things at 3.

Davidson and Woolcock traded games before Davidson started inching away, winning the next three games to take control at 5-2. Davidson lost serve at 5-3, but broke Woolcock to finish off a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 triumph.

Davidson tweeted, "we're not done yet," a couple of days after Stanford beat Texas A&M, 4-3, to qualify for the Round of 16. She was right.

"I noticed my teammates really fighting hard, and it just gave me a lot of energy to comeback to take the second set," Davidson said. "Last week, we had a 4-3 match against Texas A&M, and I just think that if I hadn't played that match most recently that it would have been a very different day for me. I had a lot of confidence just from looking over at my teammates who are getting pumped up, and at that time I was cramping and nothing felt good. I just got to keep feeding off of my teammates energy."

Thursday's match was delayed and then moved indoors due to rain, where Florida completed its doubles victory, taking the early lead.

Carol Zhao, 12-1 in matches against the Gators, gave Stanford its first point with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Brooke Austin at No. 1 singles. Zhao missed just over half the season as she played on the pro circuit.

Freshman Caroline Lampl, who leads the team with 27 wins, put the Cardinal ahead, 2-1, with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Josie Kuhlman at No. 5 singles.

senior Krista Hardebeck and Lord each dropped their first set but both came back with second-set victories.

Hardebeck, who has clinched three matches against Florida, dropped her match, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, to Kourtney Keegan as the Gators tied it. Earlier in the year, the Stanford senior beat Kuhlman.

Brianna Morgan topped Stanford junior Caroline Doyle, 7-6, 6-3, to put Florida ahead just before Lord delivered a clutch performance at No. 6, getting by Ana Danlina, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, to shift the focus on Davidson, who also clinched Stanford's win over Texas A&M in the Round of 32.

"Playing Florida is always an amazing experience," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "They took it to us in doubles, but we had great spirit, heart, and attitude in singles to come back and win."

Lord reversed the decision from the regular-season match, when Danlina won in three sets.

Lampl lost, in three sets, to Morgan in the February meeting. Davidson beat Woolcock earlier in the year, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

"Two amazing performances by freshmen Caroline and Melissa at 5 and 6 singles," Forood said. "Melissa played Danilina three times this year and this was her first victory. Today was the second key performance by Taylor in as many weeks. If she doesn't win her match against Texas A&M last weekend, we don't even get to play this weekend."

The Gators entered play ranked No. 1 in the national poll but seeded No. 2 in the postseason draw. Because of that little quirk, Stanford played the country's No. 1-ranked team for a fourth time this season: a 4-1 loss to Vanderbilt on Jan. 30, a 4-3 loss to Cal on April 3 and a 4-3 win over Cal on April 16.

Next up for Stanford will be Michigan on Saturday at 10 a.m.

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