ORLANDO – Nine months later, Stanford and Oklahoma State squared off in a highly-anticipated rematch of last year's NCAA championship.
Different setting. Same result.
Senior Taylor Davidson shook off an early deficit to grind out a three-setter, clinching No. 5 Stanford's 4-1 victory over No. 6 Oklahoma State on Friday night at the USTA National Campus in Orlando as part of the 2017 College MatchDay series.
The stakes were not as high as last May, when No. 15 Stanford became the lowest-seeded team to win an NCAA crown. But the early-season result likely sends a message to fellow contenders: expect 18-time NCAA champion Stanford to be in the national title mix once again.
Just like the 2016 final, Stanford (4-0) fell behind 1-0 after dropping the doubles point to Oklahoma State (8-2). The Cowgirls grabbed the early advantage by winning tiebreakers at the Nos. 1 and 3 spots after the Cardinal snagged court two.
But there was no panic from Stanford, which finished 7-2 last season when losing the doubles point. Four of those wins came in the postseason.
Instead, Stanford focused its attention on singles, ripping off three straight wins before Davidson's ninth career clincher.
Emily Arbuthnott contributed Stanford's first point, defeating Carla Tur Mari 6-3, 6-0 on court five.
Caroline Lampl edged Aliona Bolsova 6-4, 7-6 (3) at the No. 5 spot, putting Stanford in front 2-1.
Already gaining momentum, Melissa Lord turned her match on court three, outlasting Vladica Babic 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to make it 3-1 Stanford.
The Cardinal was then in complete control, with Davidson one game away from finishing off Lushkova while Caroline Doyle and Emma Higuchi were battling back in their matches.
Improving to 14-9 in three-set matches over her career, Davidson secured Stanford's fourth straight win minutes later.
The Cardinal is now in position to make an even stronger statement, closing out perhaps its most challenging road swing in recent memory.
Stanford next travels to Gainesville, Fla., for a true road match against No. 1 Florida (7-0) on Sunday at 9 a.m. PT. In what has developed into the best rivalry in college tennis, Stanford has won seven of the last 10 meetings against Florida since the powerhouses matched up in the 2010 NCAA final. Four of the matches have taken place in the postseason while Sunday's contest will represent the sixth straight of a home-and-home series in the regular season, as both programs have the mutual respect to test themselves early.
Also on the line is Florida's 161-match overall home winning streak, which is the longest active home winning streak of any NCAA Division I team in any sport. The Gators last home loss came back on May 15, 2004 against Miami in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State gets the first crack at snapping the streak, as the Cowgirls are also headed to Gainesville for a match on Saturday night.
Regardless, it means a very quick turnaround for Florida, which still has some work to do to catch Stanford, as the Cardinal owns the longest active home winning streak in NCAA history, producing a 184-match winning streak at Taube Family Tennis Stadium from 1999-2011.
No. 5 Stanford 4, No. 6 Oklahoma State 1
1) Babic/Tur Mari (OKSTATE) d. Arbuthnott/Davidson (STAN) 7-6 (5)
2) No. 36 Doyle/Lord (STAN) d. Blanco/Bolsova (OKSTATE) 6-4
3) Adamovic/Lushkova (OKSTATE) d. Higuchi/Lampl (STAN) 7-6 (4)
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1
1) Taylor Davidson (STAN) d. Viktoriya Lushkova (OKSTATE) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
2) No. 38 Caroline Doyle (STAN) led Katarina Adamovic (OKSTATE) 5-7, 7-6 (6), 3-2, susp.
3) No. 13 Melissa Lord (STAN) d. Vladica Babic (OKSTATE) 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
4) No. 75 Caroline Lampl (STAN) d. Aliona Bolsova (OKSTATE) 6-4, 7-6 (3)
5) Emily Arbuthnott (STAN) d. Carla Tur Mari (OKSTATE) 6-3, 6-0
6) Emma Higuchi (STAN) led Lena Ruppert (OKSTATE) 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-1, susp.
Order of Finish: 5, 4, 3, 1