Jayhawks escape graduation depletion

All six regulars from last season return to 'keep the team chemistry together'

Elizaveta Avdeeva spent most of her time at the No. 1 singles spot last season, when she was 5-13.

Amy Hall-Holt didn’t have to shed any tears on Senior Day last season after the Kansas University tennis team lost to Texas A&M.

Hall-Holt had no seniors – a rarity in college sports but an advantage to a team attempting to climb out of the lower rungs of the Big 12 Conference.

For a coach who is looking for positives, that plus sign is hard for Hall-Holt and her players to miss.

“It helps keep the team chemistry together,” she said. “If we’re not losing a top player, it definitely keeps the team as one. Not only does it keep it familiar for the freshmen/soon-to-be sophomores, it just keeps that unity together, and with that they know what they need to perform.

“They know what they need to do. They know each other’s level and that they need to push each other a little harder.”

The Jayhawks also had a hard-to-miss statistic largely responsible for their 4-17 overall record (3-8 in the Big 12). Out of 21 regular-season matches, Kansas only won four doubles points. Further, KU lost four matches by a 4-3 score, meaning doubles made the difference four additional times.

“The girls realize that doubles is a top priority for us and that getting that doubles point is a big asset to winning a match,” Hall-Holt said. “We’ve got to keep reinforcing that at practice.”

The players remember the vicious cycle well – now they want to end it.

“I’m excited about next year,” sophomore Lauren Hommell said. “I just felt that last year was disappointing because we should have won a few more.

“Getting killed in doubles, fighting back in singles and not pulling out the win. That sums up all our matches pretty much.”

Although all six Jayhawks who played a majority of the time last season have returned, none of their rankings are established.

Sophomore Elizaveta Avdeeva played most of the time at the No. 1 seed and senior Christine Skoda at No. 2.

The remainder of the order was as follows: junior Brittany Brown (No. 3), Hommell (No. 4), junior Ashley Filberth (No. 5) and sophomore Stephanie Smith (No. 6). But all that could easily change.

“Once we start in the fall, everybody is evaluated on the same scale,” Hall-Holt said. “We just kind of place them in a level where we feel they can be successful in. We don’t know until that first day of practice, just like anybody else’s lineup.”

Avdeeva finished with a 5-13 mark at the top seed, but her coach is confident her record will improve as the Obninsk, Russia, native continues to gain experience.

“She’s definitely matured a little more. She’s gotten comfortable with being here in the United States,” Hall-Holt said. “She had her first couple of weeks, first couple of months or so, where she was homesick, and I think now she’s enjoying being here.

“She wants to be here, and I think that’s going to take a lot of pressure off of her now.”

One place the Jayhawks did not struggle was in the classroom.

The tennis team recorded its highest team grade-point average last year at 3.49. That included perfect 4.0s from Avdeeva, Filberth and Smith.

“I want to commend them with as much traveling we did as a team,” Hall-Holt said. “They always knew their studies had to come first.”