Weekend of Big Slam upsets for men’s and women’s tennis

April 20, 2014, 11:55 p.m.

For the Cal men’s tennis team and the Stanford women’s tennis team, Senior Day did not go as expected, according to rankings at least. In a day of Big Slam upsets, the No. 37 Stanford men’s team (14-4, 5-2 Pac-12) took down No. 19 Cal (14-6, 4-3 Pac-12) in Berkeley, and the No. 5 Stanford women (16-2, 8-2 Pac-12) fell 6-1 to the No. 10 Bears (18-4, 10-0 Pac-12) in a stunning loss at home.

Sophomore Nolan Paige (above) provided the momentum Stanford needed after dropping the doubles point by capturing a singles point on court four as the Cardinal upset No. 19 California to stay hot. (NORBERT von der GROEBEN/isiphotos.com)

The burgeoning men’s squad rode a four-match winning streak into Saturday, where they defeated the Bears 4-2 as Cal celebrated its two senior players, Ben McLachlan and Campbell Johnson.

When the two teams last met in February, Cal smashed the Cardinal 7-0 at Stanford, but past results did not help the Bears this weekend.

After dropping the doubles point with losses on courts one and three, the Cardinal came raging back behind sophomore Nolan Paige on court four. Paige, who suffered from illness throughout winter quarter, has only been back in the lineup since the April 5 match against UCLA, and has steadily improved his singles game since his return.

Cal’s Flip Bergevi briefly regained the lead for the Bears after beating Stanford sophomore Trey Strobel in three sets, but the momentum did not last long.

Stanford’s own senior Daniel Ho delivered the first heavy blow to a perfect Senior Day by taking down Johnson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on court two before Stanford sophomore Robert Stineman won on court six in three sets.

To cap it off, junior John Morrissey, who has been hot all season, clinched the match on the first court. In a rematch from February, he faced Cal’s only ranked singles player, No. 56 McLachlan, but this time Morrissey came out on top with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory to spoil McLachlan’s final regular-season home match of his career.

The win puts the Cardinal at No. 3 in the Pac-12 going into the postseason and will certainly catapult them up the national rankings once again. Stanford has defied expectations all season, with their only losses coming at the hands of top-10 teams.

For the Stanford women, Saturday did not go nearly as well. Cal came to Taube Family Tennis Center, where seniors Kristie Ahn and Amelia Herring were honored in a ceremony before the match in front of an unusually large crowd. In their four years on the Farm, Stanford women’s tennis has an 87-9 overall record and has won two Pac-12 titles and one national championship.

Of the team’s nine losses experienced by the seniors, none had ever been at home to Cal until Saturday.

Earlier this season, the Cardinal defeated the Bears 5-2 in a non-conference match, but the tables were turned as Stanford suffered its worst loss of the season and Cal became the Pac-12 champions with a perfect 10-0 record.

The day started with three incredibly competitive doubles matches; after the duo of sophomore Krista Hardebeck and freshman Caroline Doyle dropped their match 8-3, it looked like the doubles point was still within reach for the Cardinal. The No. 9-ranked duo of freshman Carol Zhao and Ahn got to set point at 6-7 to tie it up, but Cal came back to take the match, forcing freshman Taylor Davidson and junior Ellen Tsay to abandon their match just as they reached match point at 7-4.

No. 4 Ahn, playing with a taped right forearm and right ankle, bounced back immediately for a 6-3, 6-2 win against Cal’s No. 32 Denise Starr on court one, but it turned out to be Stanford’s lone point of the day.

Ultimately, the dual came down to finishing out matches, and Stanford struggled. Even the usually perfect Zhao, who had not lost in 17 matches, had a tough day and was visibly shaken by the rare doubles loss.

“We had four first-set wins, and we had our chances,” said women’s head coach Lele Forood. “I think especially we couldn’t just put our foot down in those second sets enough, and they made nice comebacks and really played well.”

Once Cal’s No. 67 Maegan Manesse clinched the match against No. 39 Doyle on court six, Stanford’s hopes for a piece of the Pac-12 title (which they would have shared with No. 2 UCLA) were dashed. By the time No. 44 Krista Hardebeck fell in the final match on court six, the Bears could be heard chanting and celebrating on the court.

Despite the disappointment of losing the final match of the season, the day still held many positives, especially for Ahn, who now has a career record of 94-15.

“[Playing Cal today] was awesome,” Ahn said after the match. “I love playing for the big moments, and I don’t think we really could have set a bigger stage than this.”

For now, the Cardinal must focus on the Pac-12 Tournament, in Ojai, Calif., and beyond to the national tournament, where they could very well face UCLA or Cal again.

“They [Cal] were very good today,” Forood said. “They deserved to win, they deserve the conference title with their wins over the LA schools a couple weekends ago, and they’re a good team. Going to be right there in the postseason, too.”

The men’s Pac-12 Tournament begins on April 23 and the women’s starts on April 24 in Ojai, Calif.

Contact Fiona Noonan at fnoonan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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