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Senior Nina Khmelnitckaia celebrates during the match against Denver. The Jayhawks swept the Pioneers 4-0 during the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday, May 3.

No. 14 Kansas tennis began its NCAA tournament journey on Friday by squaring off against the Denver Pioneers at the Jayhawk Tennis Center. Despite a rain delay and a move to the indoor facility, the Jayhawks came out on top with a convincing score of 4-0.

“We knew them very well, but they also knew us very well,” Kansas coach Todd Chapman said on playing Denver for the second year in a row. “We had good game plans going into the match. We felt confident that we had seen all their players play."

Starting off with doubles play, the Jayhawks quickly set the tone for the match as senior Anastasia Rychagova and freshman Sonia Smagina won their doubles duel 6-2, followed by junior Maria Toran Ribes and Malkia Ngounoue clinching the doubles point with a 6-3 win for the 1-0 lead.

Despite the chilly, overcast weather, the Jayhawks quickly got to work in singles play, building off their momentum from doubles play. First to finish was Toran Ribes as she quickly toppled her opponent, Hada Chang, 6-0, 6-0. After this, the match was delayed by some rain and eventually moved from the outdoor courts to the indoor courts. 

Sophomore Plobrung Plipuech easily won her match against Tatum Burger, 6-2, 6-0, giving the Jayhawks a 3-0 lead.

The rest of the team let the momentum from doubles play slip, however, as Rychagova dropped her first set against Bianca Mok. Alongside her, Smagina and senior Janet Koch began to fall behind in each of their matches as well, jeopardizing the lead that the Jayhawks had built.

Needing to respond quickly, the Jayhawks found their answer in senior Nina Khmelnitckaia. Working quietly throughout the whole match, she was in control of her match from the get-go, never falling behind. She clinched the match for the Jayhawks with a score of 4-0, winning her match against Camille V-Anderson, 6-3, 6-4.

When asked what happened when changing courts, Chapman believes the issue stemmed from the team mentality.

“It’s all mental,” Chapman said. “You’ve got to respect every single point, every single game and you’ve got to get out there and play. Today I just felt like, in a few spots, we didn’t play the way we are capable of or the way we did two weeks ago, where we were free and played tough.”

“We weren’t really there emotionally the whole time,” Chapman continued. “We didn’t use the crowd very well today on some courts where we weren’t emotionally engaged enough. All those things are fixable, so we just have to get on the right page." 

Continuing their national championship journey, the Jayhawks will take on the Florida Gators on Saturday. The match will be played at the Jayhawks Tennis Center and will begin at 1 p.m.