WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – It was meant to be anyone other than Stanford this year. Until, of course, the Cardinal decided otherwise.
Closing the year on a dominating 20-match win streak, the Cardinal righted the ship in March, breezed through conference play in April and blitzed through the postseason in May, punctuating another incredible run by capturing its 19th NCAA championship with a 4-3 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday afternoon.
It might feel a little odd for 20-time national champion Stanford (19 NCAA, 1 AIAW), long regarded as the sport’s gold standard having now won 19 of the possible 37 NCAA crowns, to be celebrating such success as an underdog.
But, really, how can it not? Matching its improbable 2016 NCAA title run as the lowest-seeded team at No. 15 to win it all, Stanford just ripped through a gauntlet of higher seeds in No. 2 North Carolina, No. 7 Georgia, No. 3 Duke and No. 1 Vanderbilt. The Cardinal has now won 20 of its last 23 NCAA Tournament matches when seeded lower than its opponent.
So, you’ll have to forgive Stanford if this year’s postseason ambush has a “been there, done that” feel. Five years ago, Stanford won it all as a No. 12 seed. Eight years ago, the Cardinal took home the hardware as a No. 8 seed. Stanford improved to 153-19 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 44-5 during the month of May over the last eight seasons.
It would have been difficult to envision this type of reversal during the first week of March, when Stanford (24-3, 9-0 Pac-12) checked in at No. 46 in the national rankings, its lowest position in school history. The Cardinal was sitting at a modest 4-3 overall, with its three losses coming against postseason regulars such as Vanderbilt, Texas and Florida. Junior All-American Melissa Lord wasn’t expected back for three more weeks following a shoulder injury and for the first time since the NCAA shifted to a 64-team field in 1999, Stanford was in serious jeopardy of not even hosting the first and second rounds for the first time.
But the wins started piling up, Lord got healthy and by the start of NCAA’s, Stanford had skyrocketed 31 spots in the rankings. Its reward – despite winning the Pac-12 for a third straight year – was a No. 15 seed and possible matchups against North Carolina and Duke in a tournament setting played 90 minutes away.
Once again, none of it mattered, and Vanderbilt – which pounded Stanford 7-0 in Nashville back on Feb. 3 – became the latest victim in Stanford’s annual practice of making a mockery of the bracket.
It certainly didn’t matter when Vanderbilt (27-4, 12-1 SEC) secured the doubles point and grabbed a 1-0 lead in Tuesday’s match. After all, Stanford had been in this exact position against North Carolina in the round of 16 and Duke in the semifinals. The Cardinal has now won 15 of its last 20 matches when losing the doubles point, a remarkable stretch that covers the last three years.
The Cardinal evened the match at 1-1 following a 6-3, 6-2 win from Emma Higuchi over Summer Dvorak at No. 6. The nation’s top player at her position, Higuchi closed out the year with 17 consecutive wins, having not tasted defeat since Feb. 24.
Caroline Lampl then delivered a 6-4, 6-2 win at the No. 3 position, giving Stanford a 2-1 advantage. Notching her team-best 76th career win, Lampl’s season paralleled Stanford’s, with the junior winning 12 of her final 13 matches after a 9-6 start.
Vanderbilt leveled the match at 2-2 when 11th-ranked Astra Sharma defeated Michaela Gordon 7-6 (3), 6-3 at the top spot of the lineup.
Stanford surged in front 3-2 when Janice Shin picked up her 25th win of the season, taking down Emma Kurtz 6-3, 6-3 on court five.
The Commodores kept threatening and knotted the match at 3-3 after Amanda Meyer outlasted Emily Arbuthnott 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 4 spot.
That left everything riding on court two, where Lord and Contreras had split sets. Lord, who missed the first meeting due to injury, made her presence felt with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory, improving to 15-0 over her career in NCAA team matches and providing her first clincher of the season.
The title also represented No. 117 for Stanford Athletics, which moved one spot in front of UCLA for the all-time lead in NCAA team championships.
No. 15 Stanford 4, No. 2 Vanderbilt 3
1) No. 11 Contreras/Sharma (VANDY) d. No. 3 Arbuthnott/Gordon (STAN) 6-3
2) No. 69 Kurtz/Smith (VANDY) d. No. 84 Lampl/Kimberly Yee (STAN) 6-4
3) Lord/Shin (STAN) d. Meyer/Rosca (VANDY) 6-4
Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2
1) No. 11 Astra Sharma (VANDY) d. No. 15 Michaela Gordon (STAN) 7-6 (3), 6-3
2) No. 40 Melissa Lord (STAN) d. No. 10 Fernanda Contreras (VANDY) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
3) No. 93 Caroline Lampl (STAN) d. No. 44 Chris Rosca (VANDY) 6-4, 6-2
4) Amanda Meyer (VANDY) d. No. 43 Emily Arbuthnott (STAN) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
5) No. 96 Janice Shin (STAN) d. Emma Kurtz (VANDY) 6-3, 6-3
6) No. 102 Emma Higuchi (STAN) d. Summer Dvorak (VANDY) 6-3, 6-2
Order of Finish: 6, 3, 1, 5, 4, 2All-Tournament Team
No. 1 Singles – Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt
No. 2 Singles – Melissa Lord, Stanford
No. 3 Singles – Caroline Lampl, Stanford
No. 4 Singles – Ida Jarlskog, Georgia Tech
No. 5 Singles – Janice Shin, Stanford
No. 6 Singles – Emma Higuchi, Stanford
No. 1 Doubles – Astra Sharma and Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt
No. 2 Doubles – Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith, Vanderbilt
No. 3 Doubles – Meible Chi and Hannah Zhao, Duke
Most Outstanding Player – Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt
Broomfield, Andrews win NCAA Doubles Championship
Orlando, Fla. – May 25, 2019. Broomfield and Andrews registered the program’s first NCAA doubles title since 2008, outlasting Kate Fahey-Brienne Minor of Michigan 5-7, 7-6(6), 1-0(9) in the final round. The three-set win marked the pair’s third of the week, posting a pair of 10-7 decisions before Saturday’s 11-9 thriller.
The duo posted tiebreaking wins in three other sets, as well. In order to reach the final, the Bruins dealt No. 1-seeded Angela Kulikov-Rianna Valdes of crosstown rival USC a 6-4, 6-4 loss in Friday’s semifinal round. The third-seeded tandem handed losses to the first-, 10th-, 12th-, 25th- and 37th-ranked teams in the nation en route to the program’s seventh doubles championship.
Jubb delivers first tennis national championship
ORLANDO, Fla. – South Carolina junior Paul Jubb capped off his brilliant run through the NCAA Singles Championship with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over the top player in the country to deliver the Gamecocks’ first national championship in men’s tennis. The Hull, England, native dropped just one set in his six victories en route to the title.
Facing a familiar foe on Mississippi State’s Nuno Borges, the No. 1 ranked player in the nation, Jubb knew he would have a battle on his hands in the championship match. He also knew he had pushed Borges to the limit twice before this season.
“I was so relentless with my feet,” Jubb said. “That was the main thing we were saying with my coach, just going into every single ball. I’m one of the toughest players from the back and my tempo is so high, so I was just trying to keep that up the whole match.”
Both players shook off early nerves as each dropped his first service game. Jubb turned the momentum after a tough hold at 3-3. After clipping the net twice to see a 40-Love lead erased, Jubb worked a long rally until Borges sailed his final shot long to decide the game.
Jubb immediately pounced in Borges’ service game, bursting to a 40-15 lead. The Bulldogs’ senior again forced the game to deuce with a big serve, but again saw Jubb take the deciding point when his great return led to a Borges error and a 4-3 Jubb lead.
The two SEC heavy-weights went toe-to-toe as the next game also went to deuce. Again Jubb delivered, this time with a clean forehand winner up the line to surge ahead 5-3. He went on to take a 40-15 lead in the next game and closed out the set with a great return for a 6-3 victory.
Jubb kept the pressure on in the second set, winning the first two games before Borges got back on serve with a break in the third. After both players held at Love in the eighth and ninth games of the set, both were pressed but held in their next service games, including Borges holding off Jubb’s first championship point with a huge second serve to even the set at 5-5.
Two games later, Jubb served first to open the tiebreak, winning that point and two more on Borges’ serve as the Gamecock senior’s forehand continued to paint lines. The two split the next four points for a 4-2 Jubb advantage.
After switching sides, Jubb’s great return immediately put Borges behind the point. As he tried to work his way back in, Jubb came to net and knocked off a high backhand volley into the open court to go up 5-2. A Borges mishit set up another championship point.
Jubb hit a strong serve up the T that had Borges reaching, and the Gamecock junior buried a forehand up the line for the clean winner and the national title.
“Unbelievable,” Jubb said after the match. “I had to overcome so much mental toughness after losing to him twice this season. Overcoming that fear and regaining believe that I could win was so big for me today, and I did it.”
Stanford three-peats as Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Champions with win over UCLA
By Holly Roberts of Pac-12 Conference
OJAI, Calif. – Top-seeded and No. 5 nationally ranked Stanford (22-1) captured its third consecutive Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Championship tournament title and its fourth straight NCAA Tournament automatic bid with a 4-2 comeback victory over No. 2 seed and No. 9 ranked UCLA (18-7) at Libbey Park on Saturday.
The title match beared striking resemblance to last year’s tourney finale in which the Bruins took the doubles point and evened the match 2-2, but the Cardinal surged late with key victories once again highlighted by the clincher from junior Emily Arbuthnott at No. 4 singles.
“It’s obviously amazing to clinch a final like this,” said Arbuthnott, who not only clinched the 2018 Pac-12 team title for the Cardinal but has also secured the winning point in five consecutive meetings against the Bruins.
“We have this joke on our team that I end up clinching all the time. I think it might be the way I play – I don’t play too fast or too slowly, but it means a lot,” added Arbuthnnott. “Obviously I would have preferred to have won the match point that I had in the second set and get done faster, but I think getting through those three-set matches, especially in situations where you know if you win you’ve won the match, that it’s great character building. I’ve been in that situation so many times now that I feel quite comfortable.”
“She’s really solid and her matches go a little longer which is one of the reasons that she clinches a lot,” said Stanford head coach Lele Forood. “We have people like [Caroline] Lampl who bangs the ball through the court and gets off the court sooner – it takes a little bit of both.”
The Bruins have secured the doubles point in their last seven meetings against the Cardinal, but Stanford has rebounded to win the last five of those contests.
“We’ve got great singles players,” said Forood of her team’s resiliency. “That doesn’t faze us exactly. We’d like to win it and they [UCLA] were very good in the doubles, so we just know that we’ve gotta win a bunch of singles matches.”
Now with a Pac-12 tourney three-peat in the record book, Stanford will turn its attention to defending its 2018 NCAA National Championship, which it claimed as the No. 15 seed and four top-10 upsets.
“Probably better doubles from us,” joked Farood on what it will take to repeat as NCAA champions. “Just a lot of belief like we came through in singles today.”
“We’re really excited, especially with the new setup this year with teams hosting third rounds as well,” said Arbuthnott of the Cardinal’s upcoming NCAA Tournament play. “We’re really looking forward to getting back and trying to defend that title. It was really close last year, but we have the same team and we know we’re capable of it.”
The NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship Selection Show will stream live on NCAA.com on Monday, April 29 at 3:30 p.m. PT.
2019 PAC-12 WOMEN’S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Stanford 4, No. 2 UCLA 2
1. Gabby Andrews/Ayan Broomfield, UCLA def. Caroline Lampl/Kimi Yee, STAN – 6-4
2. Elysia Bolton/Jada Hart, UCLA v. Emily Arbuthnott/Michaela Gordon, STAN – 6-5 unf.
3. Abi Altick/Taylor Johnson, UCLA def. Melissa Lord/Niluka Madurawe, STAN – 6-3
Order of finish: 3, 1
1. Michaela Gordon, STAN def. Jada Hart, UCLA – 6-4, 6-4
2. Melissa Lord, STAN def. Elysia Bolton, UCLA – 7-5, 6-3
3. Caroline Lampl, STAN def. Ayan Broomfield, UCLA – 6-2, 6-1
4. Emily Arbuthnott, STAN def. Alaina Miller, UCLA – 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-0
5. Janice Shin, STAN v. Abi Altick, UCLA – 2-6, 6-4, 2-1 unf.
6. Gabby Andrews, UCLA def. Emma Higuchi, STAN – 6-3, 6-2
Order of finish: 3, 6, 2, 1, 4