©Colette Lewis 2013--
No. 12 seed Stanford came into their round of 16 meeting Friday with Pac-12 rival and No. 5 seed Southern Cal with revenge on their minds. The Cardinal had lost 6-1 to USC just weeks ago, and last year the Women of Troy eliminated Stanford in a tense 4-2 quarterfinal in Athens.
It took nearly five hours, but Stanford accomplished their mission, defeating Southern Cal 4-3, with sophomore Ellen Tsay clinching the victory at No. 5 singles.
"It's really sweet," said Stanford head coach Lele Forood. "We've had some real battles with USC. They eliminated us from the tournament last year, and they killed us at their place a little over a month ago. We were looking for payback, it was a really close match; it could have gone either way, quite frankly."
The doubles point, which lasted ninety minutes, saw Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn deal USC's Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian their first loss of the season in a tiebreaker. Gibbs and Ahn served for the match twice, at 7-4 and 7-6, but overcame those lapses, dominated the tiebreaker, winning it 9-8(2) to give the Cardinal a precious first point.
In singles, USC took four first sets, but Stanford struck first, with Stacey Tan making it 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Giuliana Olmos at line 4. Kaitlyn Christian gave USC its first point with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Natalie Dillon at line 6, but Stanford answered back when Nicole Gibbs took down Sabrina Santamaria 7-6(3), 6-2, after trailing 5-1 in the first set.
With Stanford leading 3-1, USC had leads on the other three courts, but only Zoe Scandalis could close it out in two sets. When she defeated Krista Hardebeck 6-3, 7-6(5) at No. 3, it was 3-2, with Kristie Ahn of Stanford and Tsay both forcing third sets with Danielle Lao and Gabriella DeSimone.
Tsay had trailed 7-5, 3-0, so that was an opportunity lost for USC, but Forood knew that Tsay would be dangerous if she extended DeSimone into a third set.
"Gabby's had some physical problems," said Forood. "We know each other so well, and she had to struggle at Ojai and was on crutches when we left the Pac-12s, so she was doing a great job with what she's been through over the last month. But that's the thing, when you play a team you're really familiar with, you know an awful lot of what's going on. So Ellen just hung in there and did a really good job."
Lao was unable to close out Ahn on her first attempt, serving at 5-4 in the third, but she succeeded the second time tying the match with her 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory and sending all attention to court 5, the last court in the bank of six.
Less than a minute after Lao made it 3-3, Tsay got a break with DeSimone serving at 3-4. Stepping to the line, Tsay showed no sign of nerves, serving well to get two shanked returns from DeSimone, staying in the two rallies after that and crafting a 40-15 lead. On the first match point, she missed her first serve, but her second was outstanding, and when DeSimone's forehand found the net, the celebration began for the Cardinal.
"I thought my second serve was really solid today," said Tsay, a sophomore from California. "I had maybe only one double fault. And that gave me a lot of confidence. Even when my first serve wasn't cutting it, I didn't get nervous or anything."
Tsay had clinched plenty of matches for the Cardinal this year, but she knew this one was different.
"This is actually the first one where I felt like I clinched," said Tsay. "The other ones, I feel the other people on my team were up and even if I hadn't won my match, we probably would have won. But this is like the biggest moment for me so far in my two years, so if felt pretty good."
Gibbs said Tsay's concentration was impressive throughout the three hours and fifteen minutes she was on court.
"We we sitting in the (post-match) team meeting just now and Lele was talking about how I won my match, and Ellen said to me, 'oh, you won?' She had no idea," said Gibbs. "And I think that's so valuable, and a lot of the reason that she probably pulled it out today, just focusing in on the things she needed to focus on, and being such a champion out there."
No. 12 Stanford 4, No. 5 USC 3
Noon CT – North Courts
1. #13 Nicole Gibbs (STAN) def. #2 Sabrina Santamaria (USC) 7-6(3), 6-2
2. #9 Danielle Lao (USC) def. #25 Kristie Ahn (STAN) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
3. #27 Zoe Scandalis (USC) def. #14 Krista Hardebeck (STAN) 6-3, 7-6(5)
4. #103 Stacey Tan (STAN) def. #79 Giuliana Olmos (USC) 6-2, 6-2
5. #92 Ellen Tsay (STAN) def. Gabriella DeSimone (USC) 5-7, 7-5, 6-3
6. Kaitlyn Christian (USC) def. Natalie Dillon (STAN) 6-3, 6-1
1. #8 Ahn/Gibbs (STAN) def. #2 Christian/Santamaria (USC) 9-8(2)
2. Olmos/Scandalis (USC) def. #28 Tan/Tsay (STAN) 8-6
3. Dillon/Hardebeck (STAN) def. DeSimone/Lao (USC) 8-1
Order of Finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (4,6,1,3,2,5)
Although they finished more than two hours before Stanford did, No. 4 seed Georgia wouldn't claim their 4-2 win over No. 13 Clemson was an easy one. Georgia lost the doubles point, with the Tigers' Yana Koroleva and Beatrice Gumulya taking down the nation's top-ranked team of Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia 8-3 in the process.
In the singles, the Bulldogs took four first sets, yet the outcome was very much in doubt until deep in the second set of the match between Maho Kowase and Liz Jeukeng at line 2.
Clemson took a 2-0 lead with Koroleva's 6-2, 6-0 win over Lauren Herring at No. 1, but Kate Fuller quickly followed with a win for Georgia at No. 4. Garcia tied it at 2, with a win at line 3, and Mia King gave the Bulldogs their first lead with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Tristen Dewar at line 6.
Jeukeng needed to take the second set from Kowase, and she served for it at 6-5, but the freshman was broken at love, and Kowase was the more solid performer in the tiebreaker, earning a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) win to put Georgia in the quarterfinals for the third year in a row.
"Maho's just done a great job against Clemson," said Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace, recalling her clinching match in Georgia's 4-3 victory over Clemson in last year's round of 32. "She's done a great job against so many schools, but it just seems like every time with Clemson it comes down to her court. She's so tenacious, puts so many balls in play and is so hard to play against, because you're really going to have to come up with some special stuff to beat her. Not many people are able to do that."
"I thought Liz played well and it was a really tough match," Wallace continued. "You get two tiebreakers and things can go either way, but I was really proud of Maho, getting it done again for us."
No. 4 Georgia 4, No. 13 Clemson 2
Noon CT – South Courts
1. #16 Yana Koroleva (CLEM) def. #6 Lauren Herring (UGA) 6-2, 6-0
2. #19 Maho Kowase (UGA) def. Liz Jeukeng (CLEM) 7-6(4), 7-6(2)
3. #104 Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. #40 Beatrice Gumulya (CLEM) 6-4, 6-3
4. Kate Fuller (UGA) def. Romy Koelzer (CLEM) 6-4, 6-1
5. Ayaka Okuno (UGA) vs. Ani Miao (CLEM) 5-7, 6-3, 3-0*
6. Mia King (UGA) def. Tristen Dewar (CLEM) 6-3, 1-6, 6-2
1. Koroleva/Gumulya (CLEM) def. #1 Fuller/Garcia (UGA) 8-3
2. Herring/Kowase (UGA) vs. Koelzer/Dewar (CLEM) 8-3
3. Jeukeng/Miao (CLEM) def. Kimbell/King (UGA) 8-1
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (1,4,3,6,2)
* = unfinished