Heartbreaking 4-3 Loss in NCAA Opening Round Ends Jayhawks' Season

#74 UC Santa Barbara 4, #32 Kansas 3
Hellman Tennis Center
May 13, 2016
No. 1 –  Nina Khmelnitckaia/Janet Koch (KU) vs. Palina Dubavets/Stefani Stojic (UCSB) 5-3 unfinished
No. 2 – Stephanie Yamada/Melissa Baker (UCSB) def. Smith Hinton/Anastasiya Rychagova (KU) 6-3
No. 3 – UCSB win by forfeit
Order of Finish: 3,2
No. 1 – Anastasiya Rychagova (KU) def. Lou Adler (UCSB) 6-2, 7-5
No. 2 –  Palina Dubavets (UCSB) def. Smith Hinton (KU) 6-2, 6-4
No. 3 – Janet Koch (KU) def. Stefani Stojics (UCSB) 6-2, 6-3
No. 4 – Nina Khmelnitckaia (KU) def. Jaimee Gilbertson (UCSB) 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4
No. 5 – Amanda Atanasson (UCSB) def. Maria Jose Cardona (KU) 6-7 (5), 7-6 (0), 6-7 (8)
No. 6 – UCSB wins by forfeit
Order of Finish: 6,3,2,1,4,5

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BERKELEY, Calif. – Kansas women’s tennis lost in heart-breaking fashion Friday afternoon, dropping a 4-3 decision to UC Santa Barbara in the opening round of play at the 2016 NCAA Championships held at the Hellman Tennis Center on the campus of the University of California.
It all came down to a senior playing on singles court five. After saving nine match points in the second set to force a third set, KU’s Maria Jose Cardona continued to go back and forth with UCSB’s Amanda Atanasson. The two dueled into a third-set tie breaker, with Atanasson eventually pulling out a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (0), 6-7 (8) victory after a grueling three hours of play.
“Today was a tough day,” said Kansas head coach Todd Chapman. “In these types of matches you never tend to feel good at the end. Maria fought off 10 match points, nine in the second set to get to a third. The fight she showed there is what this team is about, it’s what this program is about. We never give up. We are never going to give in on ourselves or our teammates.
“Obviously it is tough to lose because she fought off 10 match points and had four match points herself. The whole team fought hard. The effort we gave was something to be proud of.”
Playing down a player due to illness for much of the last month of the season, Kansas was prepared to take on the Gauchos with just five players. The match did not open the way they had hoped as KU dropped the doubles point.
UCSB’s tandem of Stephanie Yamada and Melissa Baker posted a 6-3 win on court two over KU’s pair of sophomore Smith Hinton and freshman Anastasiya Rychagova and quickly took a 1-0 lead. Kansas’ freshman duo of Nina Khmelnitckaia and Janet Koch were leading 5-3 over Santa Barbara’s Palina Dubavets and Stefani Stojic, but the match went unfinished.
Without even playing a point of singles action, the Jayhawks trailed 2-0 after surrendering a point due to forfeit on court six. Koch then made quick work of Stojic on court three, 6-2, 6-3, to bring the Jayhawks back to within one point at 2-1.
Dubavets extended UCSB’s lead back to two points at 3-1 with her 6-2, 6-4 win over Hinton on court two. KU bounced right back with Rychagova’s 6-2, 7-5 win on court one, trimming the lead back to 3-2 in favor of the Gauchos.
Khmelnitckaia rallied from down a set to capture a 6-7 (1), 6-3, 6-4, win on court four to even the match at 3-3 and set up the final battle on court five.
Friday’s match marked Kansas return to the NCAA Championship after a 17 year absence. The Jayhawks conclude their 2016 season with a 17-8 mark, while having finished in a five-way tie for second place in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 6-3 ledger in league play.
Kansas will return five players in 2016-17 and has added three signees to bolster the already impressive roster. Leading the way will be Rychagova, who was named the Big 12 and ITA Central Region Freshman of the Year, First Team All-Big 12 and a member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Hinton earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors, while Khmelnitckaia joined Rychagova on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
“I think the future with Kansas Tennis is very bright,” said Chapman. “We have gotten to the point, as a coach I will never be satisfied, but at the end of the day if we do what we are supposed to do and play the way we want to play, we can live with the result. Our three freshmen gave us a lot today. To be at the point where we are disappointed with losing an NCAA Championship match, we are moving in the right direction. I could not be more excited about where we are as a program.”

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