The Wichita State women's tennis team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight season, but for the first time in program history as an at-large bid.
No. 37 Wichita State (17-8) will play No. 27 Syracuse (17-7) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the Oxford, Miss. pod on May 11-12. The other side of the pod is No. 5 Mississippi and Missouri State.
"We're excited and honored to be back in the tournament," WSU coach Colin Foster said. "There was a little bit of uncertainty this year, but we felt like we had done our part to earn a berth and the committee agreed. We've had a really good year and we challenged ourselves with a very tough schedule. We'll be ready and give it our best shot."
After years of dominating the Missouri Valley, Wichita State experienced a step up in competition this season playing in the American. The Shockers finished third in the regular season and lost to Tulsa in the semifinals of the conference tournament, the first time they haven't entered the NCAA Tournament on a win since 2008.
WSU will be looking to advance to the round of 32 for the first time since 2007. The Shockers have lost close matches the last four years, with two coming down to the final point (TCU in 2016 and Georgia Tech in 2015).
"We're hungry to experience some team success in the tournament," Foster said. "We've come up just short the last few years. We've got a good opponent in Syracuse, but if we come out and play well and believe in ourselves, then I think we will give ourselves the best chance to be successful."
WSU is led in singles by Fatima Bizhukova, the No. 60-ranked player in the country. The sophomore from Russia compiled an 18-12 record this season with four victories over nationally-ranked opponents. She will face one of the top players in the country, as Syracuse's No. 1 singles player, Gabriela Knutson, is ranked No. 4 nationally.
Sandra Honigova, WSU's No. 2 singles player, also has a pair of wins over nationally ranked opponents and is 15-4 this season. They will be followed in the singles lineup by Giulla Guidetti (16-6), Gabriela Porubin (15-14), Marta Bellucco (15-13), and Sarvinoz Saidhujaeva (12-13).
The top doubles team of Bizhukova and Bellucco is ranked No. 67 in the country and finished the season with an 8-4 record and will be up against Syracuse's Knutson and Miranda Ramirez, who are ranked No. 10. The other two doubles teams for WSU will be Guidetti and Ting-Ya Hsu (12-6) and Porubin and Saidhujaeva (9-1).