Sports

Women’s tennis sets sights on NCAAs after winning Pac-12 Tournament

May 3, 2022, 8:36 p.m.

One week after its upset run in the Pac-12 Tournament, No. 15 Stanford women’s tennis (17-5, 7-2 Pac-12) confirmed its spot in the NCAA Tournament at Monday night’s Selection Show. The Cardinal will host a mini first-and-second-round regional, marking the 22nd time in program history that the Taube Family Tennis Center has played host to NCAA women’s tournament action. 

Stanford will face Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) (15-6, 5-2 OVC) in the first round. The Redhawks are the champions of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, having upset No. 1 seed Austin Peay in the finals. The Cardinal and SEMO do not share any common opponents from the regular season, but the Redhawks lost to the two bigger-name schools they faced this spring: Kentucky (13-15, 0-13 SEC) and Missouri (7-20, 2-11 SEC). 

The other first-round matchup in the Stanford regional will take place between No. 27 UCSB (20-6, 9-0 Big West) and No. 25 Kansas (15-10, 4-5 Big XII). The Cardinal lost 4-3 to UCSB earlier in the season, so this region will be no cakewalk. The Gauchos went undefeated in the Big West, and they even knocked off Pac-12 schools USC and Washington State. Stanford and Kansas share one common opponent — Arizona State — to which the Jayhawks lost 3-4. 

Also in Stanford’s quarter of the 64-team bracket are No. 2 Oklahoma (27-2, 9-0 Big XII) and No. 7 Texas A&M (30-1, 13-0 SEC). The Cardinal women will no doubt have to be at the top of their game if they want to make it out of their section. The Aggies went undefeated in conference play, and at the ITA National Team Indoors Championships in February, they went 1-1 against Pac-12 schools. Texas A&M fell to then-No. 4 Cal 3-4 in the first round and beat then-No. 10 USC 4-1. Stanford beat USC 5-2, but lost to Cal 2-5. The Oklahoma women lost in the ITA National Indoors Final against then-No. 2 UNC. That was one of two matches the Sooners have lost all season, along with their Big XII Tournament championship bout with Texas. 

Stanford is still riding a wave of momentum after capturing the Pac-12 Tournament title last week in Ojai, Calif. Stanford won three matches in three days, defeating Oregon (15-8, 5-5 Pac-12), No. 16 UCLA (12-6, 7-1 Pac-12) and No. 20 Arizona State (16-7, 6-4 Pac-12) en route to the crown. 

In their championship matchup against the Sun Devils — a team Stanford had just lost to three weeks before — the Cardinal players showed their resilience, battling back to win the doubles point after ASU won the first doubles match on court three. Senior Sara Choy and freshman Alexandra Yepifanova battled back from being down 5-2 to win their match 7-6 (4). 

The Sun Devils made things interesting in singles play, winning two matches. It was not enough, however, as junior Angelica Blake, freshman Connie Ma and Yepifanova won on courts three, one and two, respectively, to wrap up the conference title for Stanford. 

As the team forges ahead into the rest of postseason play, Stanford certainly has the pieces to do some damage this month. The team is led by freshman duo Yepifanova and Ma. The two players were the top two recruits in the nation coming into college, and they have taken fast to the college game. Ma is 14-5 in singles this season, while Yepifanova is 19-3. 

Blake and Choy provide the experience in the starting lineup, playing in the No. 3 and No. 6 spots, respectively. Both of the upperclassmen have also found success this season; Blake is 26-6 and Choy is 20-7 on the year in singles matches. The other two spots in the lineup belong to younger players. Sophomore India Houghton typically plays at the No. 4, where she sports a 9-7 record. Freshman Valencia Xu rounds the Cardinal out with a 26-3 overall record. 

The NCAA Tournament begins this week. Stanford will take on SEMO at 1 p.m. PT at the Taube Family Tennis Center this Friday, May 6. Kansas will play UCSB on Friday at 10 a.m. PT at the same venue.

Ells Boone is a desk editor for the sports section. He is a sophomore from Virginia Beach, Virginia, studying communication and economics. You can catch him waking up early on weekend mornings to watch his favorite Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur, play. Contact him at eboone24 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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