Jayhawks defeat Denver, 4-3; advance to NCAA second round

MALIBU, Calif. – Kansas sophomore Maria Toran Ribes prevailed in three sets to give the No. 18-ranked Jayhawks their first NCAA Tournament win in 19 years with a 4-3 victory over Denver at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on the Pepperdine campus.
Despite opening the match by dropping a third doubles point in their last four matches, the Jayhawks were able to regroup in singles play and come out on top. KU is now 16-6 overall and the Pioneers’ season comes to an end at19-5.
“I thought we were resilient when we had to be (Friday),” said head coach Todd Chapman. “That’s what we talk about after the doubles is that we have to embrace the situation we’re in and we have to get tough and stingy in the big moments. I thought we did that in singles. Winning five first sets on the six courts was big to get the momentum back. That was the challenge to them – let’s go out early in the singles and gain some momentum and get it back and see what happens at that point.”
In doubles, Janet Koch and Amber Policare could not overcome the Pioneers’ duo of Anna Riedmiller and Hada Chang, falling 6-1 on court two. Despoina Vogasari and Toran Ribes fought back to tie their match against Bianca Mok and Camille Verden-Anderson at 5-5 before dropping it, 7-5, at the No. 3 position, giving Denver the doubles point.
Playing on court one for singles, No. 63 Vogasari edged No. 62 Julia O’Loughlin in the first set, 6-3. Finding herself down, 5-4, in the second set, Vogasari rallied to win three-straight games and take the second set, 7-5, putting KU on the board.
Nina Khmelnitckaia and Chang played a back-and-forth first set at the No. 3 position with the Jayhawk coming out on top, 7-5. Bringing that momentum to her second set, Khmelnitckaia blanked Chang, 6-0, to give Kansas the match lead at 2-1.
Policare fell to Riedmiller at the No. 6 spot in two sets, 6-1, 6-4, which tied the overall match at 2-2. Koch won her first set, 6-4, over Mok on court two before falling in the second and third sets, 6-0, 6-1, respectively. Mok’s three-set win gave Denver a 3-2 advantage in the match.
“We’ve been so close the last two years,” said Chapman. “We’ve had match points to win the dual the last two years in the NCAA. We’ve been on the doorstep knocking and hadn’t been able to knock through the door. (Friday) that was big. That’s what we’ve talked about as a team is we’re not just satisfied making the tournament. We’ve set the standard that this program expects to make the tournament every year and our expectation now is to get wins in the tournament. (Friday) was a great first step.”
At the No. 5 spot, Tatiana Nikolaeva trailed or was tied with Arisha Ladhani throughout the entirety of the first set. Nikolaeva edged the Pioneer in a tiebreaker, 7-1, to claim the first set. In the second set Nikolaeva led throughout and broke away from a 4-4 tie for a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 match victory, evening the overall match score, 3-3.
Toran Ribes pulled away from Verden-Anderson in the first set, taking a, 7-5, win on court four. Verden-Anderson then bounced back for a, 6-2, second-set win and the pair headed to a third set. As the only match left in play and an NCAA Tournament win on the line, Toran Ribes had a 5-3, 40-0 lead over Verden-Anderson. The Pioneer won four-consecutive points to extend the match just a little longer before Toran Ribes ended it with a 6-4 third-set victory.
“We’ll play a great team (Saturday) whoever it may be,” said Chapman. “Hopefully the mindset (Saturday) is let’s go out and see what we can do. Let’s put ourselves in winning positions and I think this team will respond and be ready for a great battle (Saturday).”
Advancing to the second round, Kansas will face No. 12, and host, Pepperdine Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
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