Simply put, Stanford women's tennis just treated fans to one of the most spectacular runs in school history. In the same year that David Shaw's football team defeated five consecutive Top 25 teams to smell Roses, this tennis squad knocked off four Top 5 programs in less than a week to attain national glory.
Just over a week ago, Stanford's chances of winning an NCAA title in the 2012-2013 academic year took a seemingly crippling blow when the Cardinal women's water polo team suffered a gut-wrenching, five-overtime, 10-9 loss to USC in the national championship game. Stanford had won a national title in at least one sport for 36 consecutive years, but it certainly appeared that streak was dying an excruciating death.
Over the past five days, though, Lele Forood's club delivered an 11th hour run for the ages to rescue Stanford's cherished streak. Her 12th-seeded Cardinal women's tennis team upended no. 1 Florida, no. 4 Georgia, and no. 5 USC to punch a ticket to Tuesday's national championship match against no. 3 Texas A&M.
The Aggies gave Stanford a jolt, but Cardinal stalwart Nicole Gibbs roared to life after losing the first eight games to Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, the country's fourth-ranked player. In a spectacular run that is sure to be forever embedded in Stanford lore, Gibbs won 12 straight games to capture her match and put the Cardinal in position for the hardware.
Junior Kristie Ahn delivered the kill against the Aggies' Cristina Stancu, and the Cardinal mobbed on the Champaign, Illinois courts for the fourth time in five days. New heroes were born on a nightly basis -- literally. Freshman Krista Hardebeck had saved Stanford against no. 1 Florida the night before, rallying from a 5-1 second-set deficit while facing elimination to win and push her team into Tuesday's final.
The Great Streak lives: at least one Stanford team has now won an NCAA title in 37 consecutive years. The last time one of the school's teams didn't win an NCAA title in an academic year, Gerald Ford was President of the United States.
Stanford women's tennis has also now won 17 NCAA titles (18 total national crowns), far and away the best mark of any program in the nation. Hardebeck, the team's freshman hero, is only 18 years old, so Stanford has won a national championship for every year of her life.
Moreover, the Cardinal are also still very much alive in their quest for their 19th consecutive Directors' Cup. According to The Bootleg's exclusive projection (compiled before this spectacular tennis run), Stanford narrowly trailed Florida in the Directors' Cup standings. The Cardinal's win over the Gators in the tennis semifinal and this subsequent title has certainly tightened the gap. Stay tuned to our coverage of this heated race.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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