It was, without adding too much hyperbole, one of the greatest comebacks in Stanford and NCAA women's tennis tournament history.
Freshman Krista Hardebeck, down a set and facing match point at 1-5 in the second, came all the way back to win and send the No. 12 Cardinal into the national championship match.
Hardebeck's 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Florida's Alex Cerone at the No. 3 singles spot clinched Stanford's nail-biting, heart-pounding 4-3 victory over the top-ranked and top-seeded Gators on Monday night in Illinois.
Hardebeck, who also clinched Stanford's quarterfinal victory over Georgia, was also down, 4-3, in the third set.
Up 40-30 in the 11th game, Hardebeck got Cerone running and put her away with a sharp cross-court shot that Cerone could not reach.
Hardebeck dropped her racket, raised both hands and began walking toward the mob of Cardinal players heading her way.
"In the third set, I could tell she was maybe getting a little tired. I just told myself to really keep pressing," Hardebeck said. "I knew that the longer I could keep her out here was going to be to my benefit. I knew once it got to 3-3, that I had a really good chance to outlast her."
Stanford (21-4) will play No. 3 Texas A&M for the title on Tuesday. The Aggies (26-3) fought off a determined challenge from No. 6 UCLA, 4-3, to advance.
Stanford held a 3-0 lead after winning the doubles point and then having each of its top two players slam the door on their opponents.
Junior Nicole Gibbs made a statement with her straight-set victory, 6-0, 6-1, over Florida's Laureen Embree, who was a big reason why the Gators were looking for their third straight NCAA title.
Gibbs had a good season by any standard but her own, and is now playing like the national defending singles champion that she is.
"I'm still in shock. I was not expecting that kind of victory," Gibbs said. "Honestly, I felt like I was out there fighting for every game because Lauren Embree doesn't give you any room for messing around.
"If I had let her in during the first set or second set, she would have clawed her way back into the match," Gibbs added. "I was really disciplined to the game plan I came in with, and that was able to keep me calm and centered when I was down."
It would not be a surprise to see Gibbs and Embree back at it in the singles championship match.
Nicole played beautifully, just beautifully," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "I didn't get to see Kristie, but she must have been pretty close to on top of her game. We battled as much as we could."
Kristie Ahn downed Sofie Oyen, also in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Oyen beat Ahn earlier in the season by a similar score.
"We knew Florida, having played them already this year and in the previous postseasons," Forood said. "We knew they were going to battle like no other in the singles. Nothing was going to be easy just because we had the doubles point."
Freshman Brianna Morgan gave the Gators (26-3) their first point, beating Cardinal senior Stacey Tan, 6-1, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.
Caroline Hitimana downed Natalie Dillon, 1-6, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 6 singles that featured a pair of seniors.
Florida got its tying point at No. 5 singles as junior Olivia Janowicz squeaked past Stanford sophomore Ellen Tsay, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
At that point, Hardebeck and Cercone were 1-1 in the third set.
Stanford sophomore Kristian Ipsen added another event to his FINA World Championships schedule by winning the 3-meter at USA Diving's World Championships Trials last weekend in Tallahassee, Fla.
Ipsen, who already qualified for the 1-meter after winning the event at the U.S. Trials, finished the men's 3-meter contest with 1,372.50 points over three lists.
Ipsen scored 500.25 points in the finals, earning 94.50 and 93.50 points on his final two dives, a reverse 3.5 tuck and a reverse 1.5 with 3.5 twists, improving on his score from his semifinal list by more than 50 points.
"I knew the finals was going to be a good event and in a competition like that, everyone feeds off of each other," Ipsen said. "Everyone in the competition was diving really well, so it allowed me to step up my game. I'm really happy with how the final went.
"Going to the World Championships with three years until the Summer Olympics is going to be an amazing learning experience, and so far the team is incredible. I'm really looking forward to it."
After the coed team won the ICSA National Championship semifinals and earned its first No. 1 ranking in program history earlier this month, Stanford is poised to have a major impact at this week's ICSA National Championships. The championship sailing schedule kicks off Tuesday with ICSA Women's National Championships (May 21-24) followed by the coed dinghy and team race national championships this weekend (May 25-27) in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Stanford will enter this week's championships as the top-ranked Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference program in both the women's and coed rankings. The women's and coed teams will both seek their first-ever national championship, while the Cardinal also seeks its first team race championship since 1997.
By placing at the top of its district championship, Stanford will enter the women's event as one of nine finalists, thus bypassing the semifinal round on May 21-22 and competing for the Gerald C. Miller Trophy in the championship round May 23-24.
Stanford will compete against the nation's best as one of 14 qualifiers in the team race and one of 18 in the coed race.
The Cardinal will look to ride into the national event with the same momentum it carried at the end of the season, taking home the PCCSC team race, coed and women's trophies.
The Cardinal went 10-0 behind the efforts of Kevin Laube, Carolyn Ortel, Mateo Vargas, Tally Buckstaff, Oliver Toole and Haley Kirk at the PCCSC team race last month.
Stanford blew past the competition at the PCCSC coed race, which saw Toole, Laube, Kirk and Ortel win the A-Division with 24 points and Vargas and Buckstaff take the B-Division with 17 points.
Sarah Mace (A-Division), Katie Riklin (A-Division), Yuki Yoshiyasu (B-Division), Natalie Urban (B-Division) and Michelle Catania (B-Division) represented the Cardinal at the PCCSC women's race, earning the top spot in both divisions.
Incoming Stanford freshman goalkeeper Jane Campbell ('17) and freshman defender Laura Liedle ('16) are part of the U.S. Under-20 National Team that will play two exhibitions during a camp in Gavle, Sweden, from May 24-June 3.
They are among 20 players invited on the trip that will include matches against the Sweden U-20 and U-23 teams. The U.S. is preparing for the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada.
Also, forward Courtney Verloo, who will be a fifth-year senior at Stanford this fall, was among 24 players at the U.S. U-23 camp held at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista from May 11-18.