The NCAA team tournament concluded for women’s tennis yesterday, but the show goes on this weekend with the individual bracket.
For third-year Chrissy Hu and second-years Kendra Higgins and Jennifer Kung, the gap in the action was simply a quick breath, and they’re back on the courts today.
Burned out after a week of top-tier competition? Head coach Marty Perry doesn’t think so.
“I just think they’re excited about it,” Perry said. “We lost [yesterday], we were really disappointed, and then we took a while to get out of there... [and at lunch] they were already talking about the singles and doubles tournament, about next year’s team.”
“And they’re leading these conversations. They’re not burnt out, they’re not sick of it....I think they’re really up for this.”
They’ll have to be, if they want to stick around for more tennis in the coming days. Perry said the brackets are tougher than last season’s, although the trio of players representing Chicago has demonstrated an ability to deliver in high-stakes situations before.
While a repeat of last season’s team tournament result meant a disappointing conclusion to the Maroons’ season, Higgins and Hu would be more than happy if history repeats itself in the doubles bracket. Last season, the pair found its stride in the middle rounds of the tournament and took home the first national title in Chicago tennis history.
This season, Higgins and Hu have gone 27–6 as Chicago has played one of the most difficult schedules in all of D-III women’s tennis. While the duo has championship experience from last season, they’ll face a test in the first round, facing off against Williams’ top pair, Grace Baljon and Taylor French.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Perry said. “They get Williams right away...the number one team for the national champions.”
Meanwhile, Higgins and Kung will also be competing in the singles bracket. Both are returning to the NCAAs after qualifying a season ago, where both earned All-American status.
Higgins has had one of the best individual seasons in program history, going 33–1 overall. Her only loss came in the ITA Small College finals.
“I can’t imagine a Chicago tennis player having a better season than she’s had this year,” Perry said.
Kung, who struggled in the early part of the team tournament but found her game Thursday against Amherst, said she’s going into the individual tournament with a new mind set.
“I think last year I put way too much pressure on myself, and so I ended up crashing out really early,” Kung said. “This year I just have to focus on taking it one match at a time and get through that first match...I just have to do my best to find a way to win.”