This weekend, the Stanford women’s tennis team participated in the Pac-12 Championships in Ojai, California. It was a strong showing for the Cardinal, with Melissa Lord and Carol Zhao making a run to the Doubles Championship Division final, and Caroline Lampl progressing to the final of the Singles Invitational Division.
Though Zhao was a defending Pac-12 doubles champion with Taylor Davidson, she and Lord were unranked coming into the tournament, likely due to a lack of experience playing with each other. The duo were first paired together on March 25 against Colorado, and only played together nine times during the regular season. When Zhao returned from injury, she was placed at No. 2 doubles with Lord, as the coaching staff was reluctant to break up either of the other two double teams. Davidson had formed an excellent pairing with Caroline Doyle at the No. 1 doubles spot and the No. 3 team of Lampl and Krista Hardebeck had played equally well.
Zhao and Lord finished the season with only a single defeat, and though each of their regular-season opponents had been unranked, any notions of an early exit for Stanford’s No. 2 doubles team were dispelled quickly. The two dispatched three nationally-ranked doubles teams on their way to the final, including a victory in the quarterfinals against UCLA’s Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, the nation’s No. 6 pairing.
Zhao and Lord eventually were eventually defeated in the final by Arizona State’s Alexandra Osbourne and Ebony Panoho. Tied 3-3 in the first set, Osbourne and Panoho were able to win nine of the next ten games for a 6-3, 6-1 win. Still, Zhao and Lord’s ability to gel together into such a formidable doubles team in just a month is an incredible achievement in itself. Should they stay together as a team and add to their already great success, Stanford will have a powerful doubles lineup to work with next year, with the nation’s No. 5-ranked pair of Davidson and Doyle also returning to The Farm.
Davidson and Doyle also participated in the Doubles Championship division, progressing to the quarterfinals before dropping a tight 7-5 set to Washington’s Nour Abbes and Maki Kobayashi. Elsewhere in the doubles division at Ojai, Krista Hardebeck and Carolina Lampl played in the Invitational Division tournament and made a run of their own to the semifinals.
Lampl and Lord also made considerable noise in the invitational singles tournament. Lord was able to make it to the semifinals before falling in a tough three-set battle to Cal’s Olivia Hauger. Lampl made it a step further, nearly taking home the title before losing to Hauger in the final.
The Cardinal clearly have two young, talented players in Lampl and Lord who aren’t afraid to step up in high-pressure situations. The pair have plenty of experience in big matches after the championships this weekend, and will only get better as their careers progress. The two freshmen will both return to Palo Alto with championship appearances under their belts, and both will be eager to get back to the same point next year to finish the job.
Stanford’s singles roster this year was characterized by its depth, and that rang true as the Cardinal put three players — Taylor Davidson, Caroline Doyle, and Krista Hardebeck — in the Singles Championship Division. They were unable to reach the same successes achieved in doubles action, but overall, the Cardinal had a solid tournament. Davidson fell in the Round of 16, while Doyle and Hardebeck were both able to reach the quarterfinals before being eliminated, with the former becoming the third Stanford player ever to win 20 matches in a season and the latter extending her incredible win streak to 17 before finally bowing out.
Next up for the team are the NCAA team and individual championships. The Cardinal are almost ensured to play their first rounds at home in Taube Tennis Stadium, where they will attempt to capitalize on a nearly pristine home record (10-1). Stanford’s prowess in Palo Alto, and its current hot streak – which falls right in line with the team’s reputation of saving its best tennis for last – suggests that a deep tournament run could be approaching. Stanford has shown that it can play with some of the best teams in the country, and the team’s resilience after an uncharacteristically rough start has been on display all season. With Pac-12s in the rear-view mirror, the NCAAs are the only competition remaining. It’s time to truly see how far the Cardinal can go.
The team awaits May 3, when the NCAA will announce the postseason tournament bracket.
Contact Evan Burke at eburke3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.