Kansas tennis got a taste of postseason play for the first time in 17 seasons in 2016, and the attitude surrounding the program is that they expect to return. Head Coach Todd Chapman and his 33rd ranked Jayhawks look to continue their success heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
“I think we have a great nucleus with four girls coming back who started for us last year. We are excited about that piece and we are also excited about the three newcomers.”
Kansas had three athletes named to the Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis rankings. Coincidentally, all three were freshmen last season, but these three women played far ahead of their classification. Heading into their sophomore campaigns, the doubles team of Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia slide in at #56 slot. Along with the doubles duo, Anastasia Rychagova heads into the season at #50 overall.
Rychagova peaked at 45th in the nation last season. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year will look to anchor the Jayhawks at their top singles position this season. Koch and Khmelnitckaia will play spots 3 and 4 respectively. Kansas also returns junior Summer Collins who will play at number 5 this season. The four returning starters for KU give reason to believe that the sky is the limit for this team, as the Jayhawks tallied 17 wins last season with an inexperienced team.
With a year under the belts of half of the starting lineup, Coach Chapman decided to challenge his team with a tough nonconference schedule.
Kansas opens up their spring dual schedule at the Maui Invitational on January 5th.
Following their trip to the big island, the Jayhawks will take on Saint Louis University in their home opener on Friday, January 20th.
From there, the strength of the schedule gets turned up when Kansas takes a trip to Nashville, Tennessee to take on three teams who played in the NCAA Tournament last year. Clemson, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech in consecutive matches will be a real test for Chapman’s squad early in the year.
Following the trip to Nashville, the schedule doesn’t let up a bit as Kansas will face NC State and William & Mary on the road. Then, return home to face the Arkansas Razorbacks before hitting the road again to battle Wichita State and UNLV. All five of those opponents saw NCAA Tournament action last year.
If that schedule isn’t daunting enough, five of the nine teams Kansas will face in Big 12 play made appearances in the tournament last year as well, not to mention splitting up conference play with matchups against tournament teams in Columbia University and Tulsa.
When it’s all said and done Kansas will have faced 14 tournament teams from 2016 out of the 22 on the Jayhawk’s schedule. Coach Chapman spoke on the degree of difficulty his team will face this season,
“Playing in the Big 12 Conference, I think it only does us good to be challenged in the nonconference. The way the formula works to get into the NCAA Tournament, you’re rewarded for playing a tough schedule. It depends on how many good teams you beat so you have to schedule them to be able to have the chance to beat them.”
Todd Chapman and his strong Kansas squad will look to handle the tough schedule ahead of them and return to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year as they get their fall individual season underway Friday, September 23 at the Little Rock Invitational.
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Feature photo courtesy of KU Athletics.