RCW: Sport Spotlight 4.7 (Tennis)
For the first time since 1990 there will be a Jayhawk in the main singles draw at the ITA All-American. Nas did it with a 6-2, 6-2 win! pic.twitter.com/h7fEYUoFgb
— Kansas Tennis (@KansasTennis) October 4, 2017
A post shared by Kansas Tennis (@kansastennis) on Oct 8, 2017 at 11:20am PDT
Three Jayhawks traveled to Pacific Palisades, California to participate in the Riviera ITA Women’s All-American from September 30 to October 8. Senior transfer Despoina Vogasari played in the singles prequalifying bracket, juniors Anastasia Rychagova and Nina Khmelnitckaia competed in the doubles qualifying draw and Rychagova also had a spot in the singles qualifying bracket.
“You could make the argument that it’s the second biggest tournament of the year aside from NCAA Individuals in the spring,” said assistant coach Caroline Lilley. “You see the best players and a very-high level in both singles and doubles. Last year when we went to the event, our girls were a little overwhelmed. Not by the level, but they just didn’t know if they belonged or could compete at the All-American Championships. This year, it was great to see them respond completely different. The confidence they carried themselves with, the way they prepared, the way they competed was professional in both singles and doubles.”
Rychagova earned three-straight wins in qualifying, including a 6-3, 6-2 win over the No. 4-seeded Andrea Lazaro of Florida International, to be the first Jayhawk since 1990 to compete in the main draw. She faced Vanderbilt’s Fernanda Contreras, who also made it from qualifying, in the first round. Rychagova took the eventual champion to three-sets, but ultimately dropped the match, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
“We are so proud of the growth of Nastia (Rychagova) as a player and a person,” said head coach Todd Chapman. “She has really worked hard at being consistent in everything she does the last five to six months and she is now reaping the rewards. The ITA All-American tournament is the most prestigious event in the US besides the NCAA Championships at the end of the season. For Nastia to win seven of eight matches (all against ranked opponents) and win the consolation bracket after losing to the eventual champion in three sets the first round, is a true testament to her grit and toughness.”
Playing in the singles main draw consolation bracket, Rychagova defeated four-consecutive opponents who were all ranked in the ITA preseason top-20 (No. 17, 15, 7 and 19) and claimed the title of champion. She also earned a spot in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships.
“It was such a blessing to play tennis in such a wonderful place,” said Rychagova. “It was disappointing to come from qualifying and lose in a first round, but I can also say it happened for the better because I had the opportunity to compete against one of the best players in the country.
“Before this tournament I would have never believed that I can beat these girls, but belief from my coaches and work that I put in before this fall helped me a lot. After I found out that I made the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships I was so happy because this is something I worked so hard for.”
Playing as the No. 8-seeded doubles team, Khmelnitckaia and Rychagova won two matches to play in the semifinals of the qualifying bracket where they faced Emma Kurtz and Christina Rosca of Vanderbilt. The Jayhawk duo led 4-1 and 5-2, but ultimately fell to the Commodores, 8-5.
“Nina and Nas (Rychagova) did an unbelievable job of being great partners to each other, of being incredibly positive with each other and getting better as the tournament went on,” said Lilley. “They can compete with any team in the country. The team they lost to ended up making the quarterfinals in the main draw and upsetting the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They were right there. The biggest difference between last year and this is the fact that they belonged. They earned respect from a lot of coaches and players across the country. They also proved to themselves that they can compete on any stage no matter how big the stage may be.”
After taking a year off due to injury, Vogasari first defeated Virginia Tech’s Caroline Daxhelet, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the second round, she was not able to overcome Erica Oosterhout of Harvard and dropped the match, 7-5, 6-2.
“The biggest thing about Deb (Vogasari) is that she hasn’t played a ton of matches,” said Lilley. “Then, all of a sudden she’s thrust into a very competitive environment and required to play multiple matches in a day. She did a really good job in the first round of responding to adversity. She learned a lot about where her game is, about how much progress she’s made since June because she spent a whole year away from the game of tennis. I loved her fight, the way she competed, and the way she represented the school and herself.
Next, Kansas will host and compete in the ITA Central Regional at the Jayhawk Tennis Center. The event runs from October 19 to 23.