No. 14 Kansas Reaches First Sweet 16 since 1998

LAWRENCE, Kan. – No. 14-ranked Kansas tennis earned its first trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 since 1998 Saturday afternoon with a 4-2 victory over No. 24-ranked Florida at the Jayhawk Tennis Center at Rock Chalk Park.

The scoring in this second-round NCAA Tournament match began when KU’s Maria Toran Ribes and Malkia Ngounouefinished first in doubles, besting Florida’s Marlee Zein and Sydney Berlin at No. 3 doubles, 6-3. Then, at No. 2 doubles, Kansas’ Anastasia Rychagova and Sonia Smagina, No. 64-ranked in the country, fell to Ida Jarlskog and Tsveta Dimitrova, 6-3.

The clinching doubles match took place on court 1, as KU’s No. 6-ranked Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia triumphed over No. 25-ranked McCartney Kessler and Victoria Emma, 6-3.

Kansas has now won the doubles point in 24 out of 25 dual matches this season, including the last 13-straight.

In singles, instead of relying on their seniors, the Jayhawks’ underclassmen took control. Junior Maria Toran Ribes defeated Berlin at No. 6 singles, 6-2, 6-3, giving KU a 2-0 lead.

On court 5, senior Khmelnitckaia fell short to Dimitrova, 6-3, 6-2, cutting the KU lead to 2-1.

Then, at No. 3 singles, sophomore Plobrung Plipuech beat Emma, 6-2, 6-3, stretching the Jayhawks’ lead to 3-1.

Koch, a senior ranked No. 112 in the nation, was overtaken by Florida’s No. 30-ranked Kessler, 7-5, 6-4, on court 2, moving the Gators to within one, 3-2.

Meanwhile, on court 1, KU’s No. 13-ranked Rychagova trailed No. 15 Jarlskog, 5-7, 1-3. But at No. 4 singles, Smagina, a freshman, gutted out a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Zein, clinching the Jayhawks’ berth in the Sweet 16.

Kansas head coach Todd Chapman
On the overall match:
“I think we competed on all courts. Whether the score was going our way or not, we competed. Just like the two seniors (Koch and Rychagova) on the last two courts, the score was not in their favor, but they were fighting and fighting, trying not to leave Sonia out here by herself. To me that is senior leadership. I thought we competed across the board today and that is all we ask, whether we win or lose. We want to compete, play with energy and passion, and I think we did that as a team today.”

On what this victory means for the program:
“It is a great step. It has been a long time since we made the Sweet 16. It is big; something we have been fighting and working for is to put ourselves in these positions and to be able to come through against a battle-tested team, a very well-coached team. It was big for our program. Once again, this team is built, I believe, to move on. Whichever team we play next weekend, whether it is here or at Stanford, we are going to go out and give it our best shot.”

Kansas tennis advances to its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 since 1998. The Jayhawks’ next opponent, location and match time will depend on the result of Sunday’s Stanford-Syracuse match.