The Kansas tennis team needed one more victory to advance past the NCAA Tournament’s opening round for the first time in 19 years, and sophomore Maria Toran Ribes delivered it Friday at Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center, in Malibu, Calif.
Toran Ribes’ three-set victory in No. 4 singles over Denver’s Camille Verden-Anderson sealed a 4-3 victory for the Jayhawks and a trip to the second round of the 64-team tournament.
In the only match still in play, Toran Ribes had a 5-3, 40-0 lead over Verden-Anderson. The Pioneer won four games in a row to extend the match before Toran Ribes ended it with a 6-4, third-set victory.
Head coach Todd Chapman characterized the team, appearing in its third consecutive NCAA Tournament, resilient, after the postseason began with the No. 18-ranked Jayhawks (16-6) losing their doubles point to the Pioneers (19-5).
"That's what we talked about after the doubles,” Chapman said, “is that we have to embrace the situation we're in and we have to get tough and stingy in the big moments. I thought we did that in singles. Winning five first sets on the six courts was big to get the momentum back. That was the challenge to them: let's go out early in the singles and gain some momentum and get it back and see what happens at that point."
Every singles match except Toran Ribes’ ended in two sets. No. 1 KU senior Desponia Vogasari, No. 3 junior Nina Khmelnitckaia and No. 5 KU sophomore Tatiana Nikolaeva defeated their Denver opponents, too.
Kansas will face No. 12 Pepperdine, the tournament site’s host, Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.