Exciting doubles match spurs Kansas tennis to victory for second-straight day
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight day, a tense, come-from-behind doubles triumph spurred the No.12-ranked Kansas tennis team to a victory. Saturday it was Tulsa; Sunday Rice was the victim, 6-1, inside the Jayhawk Tennis Center.
The teams split the first two doubles matches: Kansas’ No. 3-ranked Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia beat Michaela Haet and Linda Huang, 6-3, at No. 1 doubles. Then, the Jayhawks’ No. 57-ranked Anastasia Rychagova and Sonia Smagina fell to No. 35 Anastasia Smirnova and Priya Niezgoda, 7-5.
That left the determining match for the doubles point in the hands of KU’s 41st-ranked team of junior Maria Toran Ribes and freshman Malkia Ngounoue, as they faced Rice’s 51st-ranked Victoria Smirnova and Anna Bowtell. Tied at six, the teams headed to a tiebreaker, where Tulsa’s duo bounded to a 4-0 lead. But Toran Ribes and Ngounoue ripped off seven-straight points and won the set, 7-6(4), giving the Jayhawks the doubles point and a 1-0 lead.
The day before, it was Koch and Khmelnitckaia who found themselves on the doorstep of defeat against Tulsa’s top doubles team. Tulsa won the first three points of the tiebreaker that would decide the set, but Koch and Khmelnitckaia won sevent-straight points to claim the set and the doubles point.
On Sunday, against Rice, the Jayhawks went on to dominate the singles competition. No. 53-ranked Kansas senior Rychagova beat Victoria Smirnova, 6-2, 6-1, at the No. 1 singles spot, giving KU a 2-0 lead.
Then, at the No. 5 position, Toran Ribes knocked off Huang, 6-4, 6-2, for a 3-0 Jayhawk lead. Shortly thereafter, KU freshman Plobrung Plipuech clinched the match for Kansas, topping Bowtell, 6-2, 6-2.
On court six, Smagina kept the Jayhawks rolling, defeating Diae El Jardi, 6-4, 6-1. Jayhawk senior Koch, ranked No. 50 in the nation, outlasted Anastasia Smirnova, in a long and hard-fought, first-set battle, moving on to defeat her Owl counterpart by scores of 7-5, 6-1.
In the final match to finish, on court No. 4, Khmelnitckaia dropped a marathon to Rice’s Niezgoda. After winning the first set, 6-3, Khmelnitckaia lost the second, 7-6(6). The two played a super tiebreaker to decide the third set, which Niezgoda won, 11-9, to give Rice its only point of the match.
“Today was another positive step in the right direction,” head coach Todd Chapman said. “We were fortunate to get the doubles point and we need to clean some things up in practice this week to get us back to playing aggressive doubles. In singles, we did a really good job of carrying the positive momentum from doubles and jumping out to some nice leads. The team did a good job of playing with momentum and that is something we have talked about. We have another big homestand this upcoming weekend, so we will get back to work this week and look to improve.”
The Jayhawks’ spring 2019 record improved to 6-1 while Rice fell to 5-3.
The Jayhawks stay home next weekend to host two more nonconference matches. They will face Arkansas on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Air Force on Sunday, Feb. 24. First serve from the Jayhawk Tennis Center is set for noon both days.
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