With Kristie Ahn back in the lineup after missing parts of the last two seasons, 12th-seeded Stanford was a different team.
The Cardinal completed a string of upsets by defeating No. 3 Texas A&M 4-3 for the NCAA women’s tennis championship Tuesday night.
”For Kristie Ahn to clinch, it’s poetic justice,” Stanford coach Lele Forood said. ”She’s been the missing player for us the last two years. We weren’t able to get it done without her.”
Ankle and foot injuries slowed Ahn, and hurt her neck in a bus accident.
Yet Ahn was already pondering the night before about ”how sick it would be if I clinched,” she said.
The thought kept crossing her mind during 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 win over Cristina Stancu to wrap up Stanford’s 17th national championship and seventh under Forood.
”I was thinking about how absurd it was coming down to me,” Ahn said. ”It’s a big moment, highlight of life.”
Stanford (22-4) overcame a ”brutal draw,” Forood said.
Stanford ended top-seeded Florida’s run toward a third consecutive championship and knocked off fourth-seeded Georgia and fifth-seeded USC over the previous four days.
The Cardinal were the lowest-seeded team to reach the championship match since 2007.
”It was an interesting and extremely rewarding ride for us,” Forood said. ”We had our ups and downs, but we came to play when it counted.”
The best part about the title wasn’t dumping a bucket of cold water on Forood or holding the national championship trophy, Ahn said. It’s the trip to the White House, just another part of the spoils.
”My team is a bunch of nerds,” Ahn said. ”We love politics. I can’t tell you the dinner conversations we have. It’s too much about substance.”
When Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs rallied for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, the Cardinal gained some momentum. Gibbs won NCAA singles and doubles titles last season.
”I felt bad for her,” Forood said. ”I wanted her to find a way to get back in the match. Early in the second set, she said, `I have to win this match. I have to do things differently.’ `’
Stacey Tan secured Stanford’s other singles victory, a 7-5, 6-3 decision over Ines Deheza.
Anna Mamalat grabbed the first of three consecutive singles victories for the Aggies that tied the match at 3-3. Mamalat defeated Ellen Tsay 6-1, 7-5. Texas A&M’s Nazari Urbina downed Krista Hardebeck 6-3, 7-6 and the Aggies’ Stefania Hristov beat Natalie Dillon 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
Stanford earned the doubles point, despite an 8-3 loss by Ahn and Gibbs to Stancu and Hristov. Stacey Tan and Tsay defeated the Aggies’ Wen Sun and Sanchez-Quintanar 8-4, and Stanford’s Dillon and Hardebeck secured the doubles point with an 8-5 win over Deheza and Paula Deheza.
In its second season under coach Howard Joffe, Texas A&M (26-4) made its first appearance in the championship match after reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals for the first time in school history.
”The trajectory and speed we’ve come from nowhere, so to speak, is somewhat startling,” Joffe said.