Oregon earns first NCAA berth in 10 years, but it doesn’t come as a surprise to the team
The last time the Oregon women’s tennis team participated in the NCAA Championships was 10 years ago at Athens, Georgia, where they finished last. Oregon head coach Alison Silverio, then a senior at Georgia Tech, led her team to the school’s first-ever NCAA title in any sport.
When Silverio returns to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex a decade later, she will still be gunning for a national championship — just not for the Yellow Jackets this time. The Ducks, who rank 35th in the nation, will face No. 30 North Carolina State, where Silverio was an assistant coach from 2008-2010, in the first round.
This appearance also marks the 20th anniversary that Oregon earned its first NCAA berth.
“All these coincidences, it’s kinda poetic,” Silverio said. “Athens is full of history, so to be able to say you played there is an honor.”
On May 1, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams gathered in a room for a live screening of the NCAA selection show. Whatever explosive emotions the women had were demonstrated at the courts in Ojai, California, right after Daniella Nasser scored the final point to all but assure the Ducks a spot in the NCAA Tournament, so they entered the screening feeling confident that they would see ‘Oregon’ pop up on the screen.
“I already started having some tears when Dani was playing because I knew this would give us what we wanted,” senior Marlou Kluiving said. “I’m very lucky to experience this in my last year. I wouldn’t say it was unbelievable because I knew we worked hard and knew it was possible, but I guess after those three tough years and finishing like this is very special.”
This is the first year that Silverio has a full squad of nine to work with ever since she took the reins as head coach three years ago. The Ducks recorded a number of firsts this season. They defeated UCLA and USC for the first time in program history and also took down a ranked opponent (then-No. 25 Washington).
The fact that Oregon’s regular rotation contains only one senior (Kluiving) means Ducks could be a formidable force for the years to come.
“I came in here hoping that we could do something that they haven’t done in a while,” freshman Julia Eshet said. “That’s exactly what we did. That’s exciting for the team, for the coaches, everybody who’s helping us.”
The furthest Oregon has progressed in the NCAAs was the second round in 2004, where it fell to Washington 4-3.
By rankings alone, North Carolina State has the upper hand. Besides being ranked five places above Oregon, they boast a doubles pair of No. 22 Martina Frantova and Anna Rogers while Oregon’s top pair of Eshet and Shweta Sangwan trails in 82nd place. Oregon’s top singles player is No. 79 Alyssa Tobita while Frantova is close behind in 86th place.
But rankings don’t always predict who wins the match.
“The wonderful thing about that is we’ve been battle-tested the whole season,” Silverio said. “It’s post-season, it’s a clean slate for everyone. This is our opportunity to trust the preparation and the work we’ve put in, go out there and leave it all out on the court.”
Oregon will kick off its NCAA campaign on May 13 at 6 a.m. If the Ducks progress beyond the first round, they will face either No. 5 Georgia or South Carolina State.
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