Women’s tennis makes 13th straight NCAA Tournament bid

State Hornet Staff

Sacramento State women’s tennis will open up the NCAA Tournament against No. 3 UCLA (21-2) on Friday at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.

Despite entering the tournament with an overall losing record at 12-16, Sac State was able to narrowly defeat the University of Montana 4-3 to advance to the first round of the tournament.

“I’m really excited,” said senior captain Sophie Lohscheidt. “This is my last year so I was hoping we would win conference and it made it even more exciting that it was so close.”

The women are entering familiar territory again this season as they face a nationally ranked opponent for the ninth time on the year.

The Hornets have not been able to defeat any of those top teams, however the women forced a tiebreaker in three of the contests in which they lost by one point.

Midway through the season, Sac State lost its No. 1 singles player Jennifer Nguyen due to a right knee injury after they had lost to No. 24 University of Washington 4-3.

Since losing its top player, the women have only been able to claim one point in three out of their final four matches against ranked teams.

The Hornets final regular season match was against No. 10 Cal, where they were blanked 7-0 and were without senior Katharina Knoebl.

Sac State will have its five regular season starters Olivia Boija, Knoebl, Lohscheidt, Daria Savchenko and Alina Soltanici. Freshman Deimante Bulatovaite will round out the lineup in the No. 6 spot.

The last time the Sac State competed against UCLA was in 2011, when the Bruins shutout the Hornets 4-0 in Los Angeles.

This season, UCLA’s squad features three players ranked 13th or higher in singles and the nation’s top-ranked doubles team.

Lohscheidt knows the Hornets are at a disadvantage in this matchup, but believes the women can compete against the Bruins.

“We have nothing to lose because we are the underdog,” Lohscheidt said. “I feel like we can all just play, try our best and fight hard and see what happens.”

The senior was unable to win her singles match against Montana and had to receive medical treatment after her first set, but the captain insists she will be in better shape against UCLA.

Lohscheidt pinched a nerve in her right arm and struggled to convert on her serves as she kept hitting the ball into the net.

“I’m fine,” Lohscheidt said. “As long as I’m fit until Friday I think everything will be good.”

Fellow senior captain Knoebl had also been struggling with nagging injuries including inflammation and tendonitis in her right arm, but has battled through them to make her fourth NCAA Tournament appearance with Lohscheidt.

“We can only really give our best,” Knoebl said. “It’s our only chance and it’s our last match to give everything.”

For the third consecutive year the Hornets have drawn a Pac-12 opponent to compete against in the first round. Last season the women were swept by USC 4-0 and by Cal in 2012, but earned a point against the University of Arkansas (4-1) in 2011.

Director of Sac State tennis Bill Campbell said it was no shock that the women drew another top seeded team since the Hornets did not earn a ranking this year, but is hopeful that the women can give UCLA a tough matchup.

“I’m anxious to see how this group does,” Campbell said. “I’m not saying we can beat them, but I know we can be competitive.”

The winner of the contest will meet the victor of the Texas Tech (17-8) vs. Ole Miss (13-9) match in the second round on Sunday, May 11 at 3 p.m.