For the first time this season Stanford allowed spectators to watch at Taube Tennis Center. Those fans bore witness to a heartbreak as No. 7 Pepperdine (12-2, 2-0 WCC) edged out an injured No. 25 Cardinal women’s tennis team (10-1, 6-0 Pac-12) on Friday with a final score of 4-3.
Both freshman Ana Geller and junior Sara Choy battled through cramping in their legs during their singles matches. While Geller was forced to retire while trailing in the second set, Choy kept playing. She was the last player to finish her match, and with the score tied 3-3 in the match, a win from her would have kept the Cardinal’s undefeated season alive.
Choy traded the first two sets with Pepperdine’s Lisa Zaar, 6-4, 2-6 and took control at the start of the third set. Thanks to mistakes from Zaar, she jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third set and almost secured a third game before Zaar cleaned up her mistakes, and brought the fight to Choy.
Facing a deuce and the third set tied 2-2, Choy missed a shot beyond the baseline to let Zaar complete three unanswered game wins and take control of the lead.
In the next game, Choy and Zaar fell into a rally that lasted over 20 returns as the dozen fans waited with bated breath. The rally ended when Choy sent a return into the net and helped Zaar pull ahead 4-2.
A trainer worked the Stanford junior’s leg during a medical timeout following the game, and as the third set continued, Choy’s cramps seemed to intensify. At one point, she collapsed on the court and was limping in between her returns.
That didn’t stop her.
Choy went on to win four out of the next six games to tie the third set 6-6, and with each game, the audience got louder and louder. Despite the pressure and the injury, Choy still managed to build a 6-2 lead for herself in the tiebreaker, just one point away from victory. She was not running hard, she was not leaving the ground for her serve. She was just returning the ball and she was winning.
Just when it seemed like Choy could pull off the impossible, Zaar started to fight back. She started placing the ball higher, where the 5-foot-2 Choy struggled to reach it, and scored six unanswered points to put herself, and the Waves, on top.
Senior Michaela Gordon and fifth-year Emma Higuchi aided Choy’s monumental effort in straight set victories on courts one and six. Choy and Higuchi also chipped in to secure the point from the doubles super-set but that was all the victory the Cardinal would taste on Friday afternoon as the retirement from Geller, in addition to the losses from Choy, fifth-year Emily Arbuthnott and sophomore Angelica Blake gave the Waves what they needed to return to Malibu with the win.
The Cardinal travels to Eugene to face Oregon (11-5, 4-3 Pac-12) on Sunday. According to a University spokesman, it’s “too early to know” whether Choy or Geller will be available for the contest.