Sonia Smagina raises her fist near her chest in excitement as she holds the tennis racket behind her

Sophomore Sonia Smagina shows her excitement in a match against Tennessee. The Jayhawks fell to the Volunteers 4-2 Friday, Jan. 24.

Column

Kansas tennis had some very high expectations to meet this year, as last year's team brought home the Jayhawks' first conference title. After graduating three seniors last season, the team looked to its young stars to continue the success they had one year ago.

With an incredibly young roster, led by lone senior Maria Toran Ribes, the team had a slow start to the season. Kansas was ranked No. 19 in the initial national rankings, but soon fell out of the top 50 with losses to California, Tennessee and North Carolina State. The first ranking was based on last year's team, but with four new athletes, the team lacked experience. 

While the season did not start the way Kansas wanted it to, there were some bright spots on the team. Ribes continued excellent play this year, going 8-3 in her singles matches and sophomore Sonia Smagina won three matches against nationally ranked opponents.

After a rocky start, the team started gaining momentum with wins against ranked opponents of Tulsa, Washington and Northwestern. The Jayhawks quickly moved back into the rankings at No. 31 and won five straight matchups.

Unfortunately, the season ended right at the time this team was hitting its stride. Ribes and other spring athletes' senior season was sadly cut short. The NCAA has given an extra year of eligibility, but it is not decided if she will come back next season. Last season, Ribes won the final match that gave Kansas the Big 12 championship.

With the news of the canceled season, the only place for Kansas to look is toward its bright future. Out of the seven players on the team, six of them were underclassmen. Smagina, who was on the all Big 12 freshman team last year, will continue her play and compete with the best in the nation. Also returning is freshman Carmen Roxana Manu, who won five straight singles matches before the season was suspended.

Many others on the team have shown glimpses of promise. Even though the season ended on a sour note, Kansas tennis can look forward to developing its young talent and using the momentum gained this year. With what looks to be a bright future ahead, Kansas could very well be on its way to more conference titles.