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Another rising star shines for Stanford women in NCAA tennis

 

Mired in the longest winless stretch of her career and plagued by serving inconsistency, junior Caroline Doyle was an unlikely candidate to turn things around for the Stanford women's tennis team.

Or, perhaps, Doyle was exactly where she wanted to be.

Erasing a 6-5 third-set deficit in singles and shaking off a rough ending to doubles in which she produced four consecutive double-faults, Doyle became the latest hero in No. 15 Stanford's postseason surge with an exhausting 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (4) victory over Kate Fahey in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships.

Stanford (18-5) has had to overcome everything from playing without its No. 1 player for most of the year to a low seed for the posteason despite beating the top two ranked teams during the regular season.

The Cardinal has won 12 of its past 14 NCAA matches when seeded lower than its opponent. That includes winning it all as a No. 12 seed three years ago and taking home the hardware in 2010 as a No. 8 seed.

Up next is No. 6 Vanderbilt (Monday, 10 a.m. PT), one of the early season losses Stanford suffered when it was without last year's NCAA runner-up and three-time All-American Carol Zhao, who returned for good in late March.

It also hasn't mattered that Stanford has made a recent habit of slow starts. The Cardinal has incredibly now lost the doubles point in five of its last six matches. The result: five victories – all at the most important time of the season and all against top-20 opponents.

Making its 30th NCAA semifinals appearance and chasing its 18th NCAA title, Stanford continues to take the long, but successful, road of finding four singles victories through its lineup. They've been there in different combinations each time.

Trailing 1-0 for the third straight match, Stanford began its comeback by relying on depth in the back courts. Freshman Melissa Lord, who has quietly won eight of her last 10 as perhaps the Cardinal's hottest player, powered her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Teona Velehorschi on court six.

Stanford moved in front 2-1 when senior Krista Hardebeck followed with a 6-0, 7-5 triumph against Alex Najarian on court four. Hardebeck, who has won 20 of her last 22 matches overall, has lost only twice since January.

Michigan (23-7) leveled the match at 2-2 when Ronit Yurovsky defeated Zhao, 6-4, 6-2, at the No. 1 spot in a battle of top-25 players.

However, the Cardinal remained in decent shape, having already booked every first set in each of the three remaining matches.

Freshman Caroline Lampl extended Stanford's lead to 3-2, posting her team-leading 28th overall victory, when she outlasted Mira Ruder-Hook, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, at the No. 5 position.

Lampl, who leads the Cardinal with six clinchers, improved to 9-4 in three-set matches this season.

The Wolverines battled to tie at 3, as Brienne Minor rallied past junior Taylor Davidson 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 on court two.

It was the first loss of the postseason for Davidson, who had providing the clinching point in Stanford's previous 4-3 thrillers against No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 1 Florida.

That left everything riding on Doyle, who was experiencing one of the most up-and-down afternoons in recent memory.

It started at the end of doubles, when Michigan claimed the doubles point after Doyle was responsible for four double-faults, with seven of the eight serves falling into the net.

In singles against Kate Fahey, Doyle blazed her way to a 6-2 victory in the first set, only to lose the second frame by the same score.

Doyle then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but saw that cushion disappear completely. Suddenly on the verge of losing the match at 6-5, Doyle fought back to make it 6-6.

Doyle ripped off the first five points of the tiebreaker, maintained her composure leading 6-4 and eventually closed the match on an unforced error from Fahey.

Stanford owns a 140-18 all-time record in the postseason since the NCAA Tournament went to its present format in 1982.

— Stanford Athletics

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