Three Jayhawks honored by ITA
TEMPE, Ariz. – Kansas tennis had three team members honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) for Regional Year-End Awards, as announced by the office Monday morning. The three honorees are assistant coach Caroline Lilley, junior Anastasia Rychagova and senior Despoina Vogasari.
The Jayhawks compete in the Central region with 38 other teams in various divisions and earned three of the nine awards possible. In her third year as the assistant coach for KU, Lilley was named the tasc Performance ITA Assistant Coach of the Year. Rychagova was recognized as the ITA Player to Watch, while senior-transfer Vogasari was tabbed the ITA Most Improved Senior.
“We are very proud of Caroline, Nas (Rychagova) and Debbie (Vogasari) for the honors the ITA Central region awarded them,” said head coach Todd Chapman. “They have all worked extremely hard this year and are very deserving of these honors.”
Lilley’s presence made an immediate impact since joining the Kansas program May 13, 2015. Over the course of her three years in Lawrence, the Jayhawks have been invited to the NCAA Tournament for three-consecutive years, earned a program-high ranking of No. 14 in February of 2017, finished second in the Big 12 standings in both 2016 and 2018 and remained in the top-20 rankings this season for 11-straight weeks.
“Caroline has been invaluable to our program and we would not be where we are currently without her,” said Chapman. “Caroline is one of the best assistant coaches in college tennis and we feel very fortunate to have her at Kansas.”
Rychagova began to make her mark on collegiate tennis early in the fall of 2017. She won three-consecutive matches at the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American to advance to the main draw, lost her first match, but was named the Main Draw Consolation Champion, earned a career-high win at the tournament against No. 7 Melissa Lord of Stanford, was one of two Jayhawks to qualify for the Oracle ITA Fall National Championships and ended the fall season ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation.
“Nas was having one of the best seasons in Kansas tennis history when she went down with injury in March,” said Chapman. “To have a player spend four months as the top-ranked player in college tennis is not something that happens very often to a program. Nas is the epitome of what (type of player) you want on your team and we are excited to see what her senior year has in store for her.”
Although she missed the last 10 dual matches due to injury, Rychagova still managed to put together an overall record of 18-3, including 8-1 during dual play. She went 11-2 against ranked opponents, reclaimed her No. 1 ranking on February 20 and held a spot in the ITA’s top-10 throughout the entire season. Rychagova was honored by the Big 12 as Player of the Week February 20 and named to the All-Big 12 Singles First Team. Rychagova also earned an at-large bid to compete at the NCAA Division I Singles Championships.
Coming from Houston for her final year of eligibility, Vogasari started strong in the fall by being one of three Jayhawks to participate at the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American, won six matches in-a-row to compete in the finals at the ITA Central Regional and was one of two KU players to qualify for the Oracle ITA Fall National Championships.
“Debbie made such an immediate impact on our program and really helped set the tone at the top of our lineup,” said Chapman. “It is not easy to sit out a year from competition and then come back and have the kind of year Debbie had her senior year. We appreciate Debbie buying into our program and the process with which we go about things.”
Vogasari did not let up in the spring, going undefeated in Big 12 play (5-0), earning a career-high win against a ranked opponent March 23 over Texas Tech’s No. 11 Gabriela Talaba and three league honors as the Player of the Week March 27, Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and All-Big 12 Singles First Team. Vogasari ended her senior season with a 25-9 overall singles record, including 14-4 in dual matches with time at the No. 1 and 2 positions. She also finished on an 11-match win steak, the longest of her collegiate career, and was selected as the fifth alternate for the NCAA Division I Singles Championship.
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