The Kansas women's tennis team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, when they made a memorable run to the Sweet 16.
Three members of this year's team — Julia Deming, Malkia Ngounoue and Sonia Smagina — were freshmen on that 2019 squad, and their experience, along with an influx of talent that had the Jayhawks ranked in the Top 25 for a good chunk of the current season, has the Jayhawks fired up for their return to the postseason.
In the first round, No. 25 Kansas will face 27th-ranked UC-Santa Barbara at the University of Stanford at noon on Friday. The winner of that match will take on the winner of No. 15 overall seed Stanford against Southeast Missouri State. The host Cardinal enters the week ranked 15th nationally and as the region's top seed.
"It's definitely a tough draw," KU coach Todd Chapman said in a video posted to KU's Twitter page after the bracket was released. "But we're just excited for the opportunity to be back in the NCAA Tournament and (testing ourselves) against the best."
Chapman said the contest with a highly ranked UCSB squad made that region's matchup of No. 2 and No. 3 seeded teams "one of the strongest in the country."
He also said he was hopeful that his team still had another gear or two it could shift into as it prepares for postseason play.
"We haven't peaked this year," he said. "Hopefully that's here in the next few weeks."
The Jayhawks finished the regular season 15-10 overall and 4-5 in Big 12 Conference play. The Jayhawks advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament last week before losing to No. 2 Oklahoma after notching a quarterfinal win over No. 21 Baylor.
The Jayhawks have been led all season by first team all-Big 12 selection Maria Titova and Ngounoue, who earned second team all-Big 12 honors. Titova went 19-8 this season, playing mostly in the No. 1 singles slot. Ngounoue takes a 19-13 overall record into the postseason after playing the majority of her matches in the No. 2 spot.
Colombian freshman Mariana Manyoma-Velasquez also totaled 19 wins this season, going 19-16 overall and 3-3 in Big 12 play. Senior Tiffany Lagarde and junior Carmen Roxana Manu each recorded 15 wins this season, while Smagina added 14 wins.
Smagina also teamed with sophomore Raphaelle Lacasse to win 14 doubles matches. That duo is ranked No. 82 nationally entering the postseason.
None of that matters now, though, and Chapman and the Jayhawks are emphasizing what's ahead rather than what already has happened.
"We're definitely all eyes set on UCSB," Chapman said. "We've got our hands full in the first round."
This season marks the fifth time the Jayhawks have been selected for the NCAA Tournament under coach Chapman and the 12th time in program history.
KU hosted a regional in 2019, knocking off Denver and Florida at the Jayhawk Tennis Center before falling to Stanford, 4-3, in the Sweet 16 in California.