ATHENS, Ga. -- Just how dominant has Carol Zhao been at the No. 3 spot this year? Of Zhao’s 28 victories, all but three have been decided in straight sets. At times, it seems Zhao is rarely even pushed to the limit, with only four of her sets this season decided by a tiebreaker.
Turns out she can win those, too.Two days after watching fellow rookie Caroline Doyle deliver a pressure-packed win, Zhao provided the clinching point with a 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4) victory as No. 11 Stanford defeated No. 4 Virginia 4-2 on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Stanford (20-2, 8-2 Pac-12), which has now won nine consecutive NCAA tournament matches when seeded lower than its opponent, will next face No. 7 North Carolina on Monday at 1 p.m. ET with the winner earning a spot in the national championship.
Aiming to repeat as NCAA champions for the first time since an undefeated three-year run from 2004-06, Stanford built an early lead and received late victories from Doyle and Zhao after Virginia had fought back to even the match at 2-2.
Capturing the doubles point for the 19th time in 22 matches, Stanford gained a 1-0 lead thanks to strong performances at the top of the lineup. Even on two courts, the Cardinal’s No. 2 duo of Taylor Davidson and Ellen Tsay posted an 8-5 triumph against the duo of Julia Elbaba and Rachel Pierson.
Carrying over her momentum from Thursday’s dramatic three-setter, Davidson contributed a 6-4, 6-1 victory to kick off singles play and extend Stanford’s lead to 2-0.
Virginia, which spent all but one month ranked among the top 10, battled back to even the contest at 2-2. Danielle Collins charged ahead with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Krista Hardebeck on court No. 2 while Maci Epstein edged Tsay 7-6 (5), 6-3 on court No. 5.
Doyle had won her first set 6-2 at the No. 6 position before Caryssa Peretz countered with a 6-3 victory in the second frame. The deciding set was all Doyle, who ripped off six games in a row to push Stanford’s lead to 3-2.
The clincher would end up coming from Zhao, but it wasn’t easy. In the first set, Zhao led 4-2 before Nauta won the next three games. Zhao eventually forced a tiebreaker, winning seven of the eight points. In the second set, Zhao rallied from a 6-5 deficit to force a second tiebreaker, jumping out to an early lead and holding on for the win.