Rychagova Picks Up Three Big 12 Postseason Awards; Hinton and Khmelnitckaia Also Honored
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas women’s tennis’ rise under third-year head coach Todd Chapman continues as Anastasiya Rychagova snagged three postseason honors from the Big 12 Conference and Smith Hinton and Nina Khmelnitckaia each picked up one of their own, as the conference office announced its awards Thursday afternoon.
“It is great for the girls to be honored by the Big 12,” said Chapman. “I have said it all year, they put in so much work. Their effort and attitude about working hard has been tremendous. It’s part of the fruits of the labor for them to be honored. The rest of the girls on our team are deserving too. You wish they all could be honored, but it is great to have three take home postseason awards from the conference. It speaks to the work they have put in and the season they have had and it is definitely a springboard for the future.”
Rychagova was the conference coaches’ unanimous selection for Big 12 Freshman of the Year and also earned First Team All-Big 12 honors and Big 12 All-Freshman Team honors. She is the first Jayhawk in the history of the program to pick up Big 12 Freshman of the year honors and is the first KU player since Magdalena Tocarcyzk did so in 2008 to be tabbed a First Team All-Big 12 selection.
Rychagova, who is currently ranked 77th in the ITA singles rankings, was instrumental in leading Kansas to its first NCAA Championship appearance in 17 years and was also honored by the ITA as the Central Region Freshman of the Year earlier in the week.
A Moscow, Russia native, Rychagova, playing on court one, has compiled a 15-5 mark in singles play (with four unfinished matches) and has also been stellar in doubles action with a record of 20-3. Her play helped the Jayhawks defeat conference foe Baylor for the first time since 2002, and also pick up a win over conference foe Texas for the first time ever in 28 attempts.
“Anastasiya is dedicated to her craft,” said Chapman. “She works extremely hard and always wants to get better. She is never satisfied with what she is doing. I think her work ethic is fantastic and she is extremely humble, that is what makes her who she is.”
Hinton, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors, joining Rychagova as the first Jayhawks to pick up all-conference honors since 2008. Hinton, who plays on court two, has collected a 10-7 (with seven unfinished matches) mark in singles play during the dual-match season. Additionally, she has joined forces with Rychagova to post an impressive 19-2 mark in doubles action.
“Smith Hinton is consistency,” said Chapman. ” Consistent effort, consistent attitude. The mindset she brings every day to practice and takes to the court with her in matches is always at a high level. The fun thing about Smith is she has no idea how good she is. We are still trying to convince her of that. I think she is starting to see that. She is a solid, reliable player. Every day you know what you are going to get. It has been fun to see her grow this year.”
Khmelnitckaia has had an impressive rookie campaign in the Crimson and Blue as she joined Rychagova on the Big 12 All-Freshman team. The dynamic duo are the first-ever KU players to earn a spot on the prestigious team.
Khmelnitckaia, who hails from Moscow, Russia, has registered a 14-8 (with two unfinished matches) mark in singles play, while playing primarily on court four. She has paired up with fellow freshman Janet Koch on doubles court one to record an 11-9 mark, while spending a portion of the season ranked in the top 75 in the ITA doubles rankings.
“Nina is a very emotional player and is very competitive, even at practice,” said Chapman. “We have worked on controlling those emotions so she can grow each and every day and she has been doing that. The exciting thing about Nina is she is not there yet. She still has a lot to look forward to and a lot of growth left in her game, which is great since she is just a freshman.”
Kansas is currently in Berkeley, California at the home of No. 1 overall seed Cal for the first two rounds of 2016 NCAA Championship play. The Jayhawks are the two seed in their pod and will face the No. 3 seed UC Santa Barbara, while Cal will take on No. 4 seed University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Kansas and UCSB will face off at 12 p.m. (CT), followed by the Cal-UTRGV match at 3 p.m. (CT). The two winners will match up at 5 p.m. (CT), on Saturday, May 14.
Kansas’ last appearance in the NCAA Championship came in 1999, where the Jayhawks defeated New Mexico, 5-3, in the first round, before falling to Duke, 5-0, in the second round. KU will be making the program’s eighth NCAA Tournament appearance, but its first in 17 years.
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