ASU tennis' Stephanie Vlad, Desirae Krawczyk hope to use Ojai Valley tournament as path to NCAAs
The regular season has ended, but college tennis has not. The 114th annual Ojai Valley Tournament is set to begin this week and will feature ASU in the Pac-12 tournament section.
The top three players from each Pac-12 school compete for the singles championship. No. 68 sophomore Stephanie Vlad, No. 55 sophomore Desirae Krawczyk and freshman Kassidy Jump will all compete for the Sun Devils.
Three more ASU players were entered in the invitational singles pool. Junior Leighann Sahagun, sophomore Ebony Panoho and freshman Gussie O’Sullivan will fight for the invitational trophy.
The doubles championship features 15 teams. Among them is the Sun Devil duo of Krawczyk and Sahagun.
ASU has three teams in the invitational doubles. Jump and junior Joanna Smith will play together, as will Panoho and freshman Alex Osborne. Vlad and O’Sullivan will play together, too.
Coach Sheila McInerney said the tournament is similar to fall tennis, when the team aspect is not predominant. Due to this experience, players are more prepared for Ojai and it will not be difficult to adjust.
A successful run in the tournament has more implications than just performing well. If a player plays well enough, she could qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“Basically what this does is two fold: It gives someone like Stephanie and Desirae a last shot to get to the NCAA,” McInerney said. “It’s really going to boost their individual rankings.”
Right now, Vlad and Krawczyk are on the bubble. McInerney said the top 58 players get into the tournament. Krawczyk is on the fringe of the top 58, and Vlad is sitting just outside of it.
Last year, the tournament helped two now-alumna of ASU. Jacqueline Cako and Nicole Smith both played well and qualified for the NCAA tournament; in turn, they became All-Americans.
Jump, currently unranked, is unlikely to make the NCAA tournament but has quietly played very well recently, climaxing in a win over No. 76 freshman Lauren Marker of UA.
“That sets her up for next year to get into some of the preseason tournaments,” McInerney said, referring to both defeating Marker and competing in Ojai.
“It’s a really strong field this year,” McInerney said.
This includes No. 2 UCLA sophomore Robin Anderson and No. 3 Stanford senior Kristie Ahn.
“We’ll probably have 15, 16 kids that are ranked in the tournament, so it’s fantastic,” McInerney said.
The Ojai Valley tournament extends beyond just the Pac-12 section. Junior colleges, adults and pros can all compete in different brackets. Krawczyk, for instance, has played in tournaments in Ojai since she was 12 years old. This experience and the health of her knee could bode well for her in this all-inclusive stage.
“It’s the oldest tournament in the country,” McInerney said. “(It’s) sort of like a tennis festival."
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