Ducks prepare for postseason battles in NCAA Tournament
Postseason dreams are still a little new to the No. 33 Oregon women’s tennis team.
Oregon was a lock for postseason play this season after a strong 15-9 season. Despite ending their Pac-12 Championship campaign in heartbreak with a close 4-3 loss against No. 14 UCLA, the Ducks knew there was a bigger goal at hand. It might be a tall task to win both matches this weekend, but the Ducks are confident and ready.
“We knew this was our last chance this season,” junior Shweta Sangwan said. “We were a little disappointed after the Pac-12 tournament. We’re going to make it happen this time.”
Just one year ago however, the goal was much simpler. The Ducks wanted to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Oregon of course achieved that, but in all the excitement, it ended with a bitter taste, losing to North Carolina State 4-2 in the first round.
“We were kind of expecting to be in the tournament,” senior Alyssa Tobita said. “It wasn’t as much of a celebration making the tournament. It was more of an, ‘Okay, we’re focused on this match.’ It doesn’t matter who is across the match or what.”
This year, Oregon men’s and women’s tennis held a watch party to find out both teams’ first round matchups. Since the release was during school hours, not all the players could be there, but the absentees found a way to stay in the loop.
“I was chatting with them and messaging them,” Sangwan said, who missed the party for school office hours. “I know everyone was really excited. Instantly in the group we said, ‘Okay, let’s start preparing now.’”
The team they are preparing to face will be No. 38 Tennessee, the ninth place finishers in the SEC.
The teams shared and defeated two common opponents this season in Georgia State and William and Mary. Tennessee defeated Georgia State 4-1 and William and Mary 6-1. Oregon defeated Georgia State 6-1 and William and Mary 7-0.
As far as records go, Tennessee went 18-11 this season and lost seven of its last eight matches outside of Knoxville. The Volunteers were ranked as high as No. 17 in the last week of February. Their season was highlighted by an upset win over then-ranked No. 15 Auburn.
“I am expecting an exciting, exciting fight and battle,” head coach Alison Silverio said. “We’re certainly not going to take them lightly. We’re going to respect them, but not fear them, and be ready to go out and get the job done.”
Doubles play will be a little different with the Volunteers possessing a top-50 pair. The No. 40 doubles pair of Ariadna Riley and Kaitlin Staines started the season 10-0 together and are currently 15-4. Oregon’s No. 74-ranked Sangwan and Julia Eshet will most likely be the Duck duo in opposition.
If the Ducks are able to defeat Tennessee, they will most likely face host-school, No. 3 Duke.
Duke boasts quite the résumé in both singles and doubles play. The Blue Devils have two doubles pairs ranked in the top-10 in No. 6 Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen and No. 9 Ellyse Hamlin and Kaitlyn McCarthy. They also have five players ranked in the top-125, led by No. 6 Harris and followed by No. 28 Chen, No. 55 Meible Chi, No. 84 Hamlin and No. 116 McCarthy.
The Ducks will look to improve upon their memorable season by winning their first tournament match since 2004. Oregon’s first match will be this Friday, at 10 a.m. against Tennessee.
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack
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