The Stanford women’s tennis team continued its undefeated streak to begin the 2012 season by defeating No. 36 St. Mary’s, 6-1. This match came after a nine-day break from competition and was the No 1. Cardinal’s (5-0, 1-0 Pac-12) first match since ascending to the nation’s top ranking.
Saint Mary’s (3-3) entered Tuesday’s match with a winning record, including an impressive upset of then-No. 25 Oklahoma. Its only two losses of the season had come against No. 4 UCLA and No. 16 USC, although both matches were blowouts.
Stanford’s No. 1 player, sophomore Nicole Gibbs, came off a loss last week against Florida to lead the lineup with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Catherine Isip. After taking some time to adjust to a new racket, Gibbs hit her stride in the first set before running away with the second set.
“I’m playing with a new racket, and working my way into matches has been a slightly slower process because of that,” Gibbs explained. “But it pays a big dividend once I’m in my comfort zone. That’s what you saw today. I started playing really well after I had made a few adjustments.”
As the team solidifies its lineup, Gibbs has a firm grasp on the top spot and has been using strong performances there to build her confidence.
“It’s an honor to be playing at the top of the lineup or playing anywhere on the Stanford lineup,” Gibbs said. “I’m just looking forward to doing the best job with my position that I’m capable of. It was good to get back on the court after my individual loss at Florida, too, and regain the confidence I’m going to be building on for the rest of the season.”
Freshman Ellen Tsay put in the day’s best performance, steamrolling her opponent 6-0, 6-0. Her recent play has continued to prove that she is a valuable addition to a Stanford squad that took only one recruit for the Class of 2015.
“It really feels great because I didn’t lose a single game,” Tsay said.
“At the end, my opponent shook my hand and joked, ‘Can’t you just give me a game?’” she added. “I had played [Gael sophomore Jade Frampton] in singles once before, so I knew what she was like. I was really relaxed today, was aggressive and everything went the way I had planned.”
Just five matches into the season, Tsay’s entrance to the team has been smooth, aided by relationships that she developed with her teammates prior to joining the squad and by practicing amongst an accomplished group of players.
“Coming into Stanford, I was just really excited because I would be able to practice with a group of really strong players on a regular basis, and basically all my expectations have been fulfilled,” Tsay said. “I’ve improved a lot since I came to Stanford as far as being aggressive and hitting the ball harder goes.”
Sophomore Kristie Ahn showed continued improvement, still adjusting to match-level play in her return from injury. She and her partner, senior Veronica Li, secured a dominant 8-2 doubles match before Ahn, playing at the third spot inside the stadium, earned a 6-3, 6-4 singles victory over Anna Chkhikvishvili.
“It’s just always a pleasure to play in the stadium, and no doubt Saint Mary’s is a good team,” Ahn said. “It was a really good test for me as well as the rest of the team. The stadium is always great because the competition is better, but I think it makes me want it that much more.”
Other match scores included an impressive 6-3, 6-4 win by Li and a close 6-4, 7-5 win by junior Stacey Tan. Stanford’s sole loss came at the No. 6 spot, where sophomore Amelia Herring lost 6-1, 6-2 to Carla Lindlar. In doubles, Stanford’s No. 1 team of Mallory Burdette and Gibbs won 8-4, and the No. 2 team of Tan and Tsay won 8-4.
The Cardinal next returns to the courts on Friday, when it welcomes Cal Poly to Taube Family Tennis Center at 2 p.m.