Kansas duo downs No. 2 seed to advance at NCAA Championship

ATHENS, Ga. – The No. 37-ranked Kansas doubles pair of senior Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum and sophomore Nina Khmelnitckaia rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the first set to post a three-set victory over the No. 2 overall seed to advance to the round of 16 of the 2017 NCAA Doubles Tournament at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.
After an hour delay, waiting for singles matches to complete, the KU team was finally able to take the court against Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux of Mississippi State. MSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead, which was quickly followed by a three-game rally by the Jayhawks. Bernard-Feigenbaum and Khmelnitckaia weren’t able to keep the momentum and eventually dropped the first set, 6-3.
“We didn’t get off to the greatest start, but what I’m proudest of is the way we responded,” said head coach Todd Chapman. “We were down 0-4 in the first set, playing on one of the stadium courts against the No. 2 team in the country and they kept fighting, kept battling. They were very resilient. This was probably one the matches where I thought we were very even throughout the match emotionally. I thought our play was good the whole time even when we were down 0-4.”
In the second set, Kansas opened with the serve and both teams held serve throughout the first nine games of the set. In the 10th game, down 30-0, KU charged to take a 40-30 lead. Mississippi State then forced deuce, but the Jayhawks bounced back to break serve and win the deuce point to take the second set, 6-4.
“We were confident and did the right things in the big moments,” said Chapman. “Whether we won or lost in that situation, we were proud of how the girls were playing. I think (assistant coach) Caroline (Lilley) did a great job with the girls. Nina and Tess deserve all the credit.”
With each team winning a set, the first round match moved into a 10-point tiebreaker. Kansas took a 7-2 lead early, but MSU bounced back to come within one point at 7-6. Lee and Rioux eventually forced an 8-8 tie, but Bernard-Feigenbaum and Khmelnitckaia won the last two points for win, ultimately winning the match, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8.
“There were some good points in there,” said Chapman. “I thought Mississippi State raised its level. It wasn’t like I thought we were getting nervous, choking or something along those lines, Mississippi State played some good points. We also did some good things and just barely missed a couple shots there.
“(We) made some good poaches at 8-6. We didn’t play a great point and Mississippi State came up with an unbelievable reflex volley in that point. I liked the way we were playing even though we had blown a little bit of a lead I don’t think it was for the wrong reasons.”
This victory marks the first program win for Kansas at the NCAA Doubles Championships since Kylie Hunt and Christie Sim beat Massoumeh Brown and Kelly Emami from Kentucky, 7-6 (6), 6-3, in 1998.
Bernard-Feigenbaum and Khmelnitckaia will take on No. 17-ranked Julia O’Loughlin and Maureen Slattery of Denver in the Round of 16 at 12 p.m., CT Friday.
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