NCAA Championship Play Begins Friday
Predictably, Karin Young's phone lit up when the bracket was revealed Monday for this year's NCAA women's tennis championship.
Young is a freshman on the UO women's team that was selected to play in the championship, on Friday in a first-round matchup hosted by Texas. Oregon's opponent for the first round is Michigan, where Young's brother Gavin is a sophomore on the men's team.
Gavin texted Monday to say congrats. Karin texted back looking for a scouting report on the Wolverines' women's team.
"I already asked him, do you know the No. 4 singles player," Karin Young said with a laugh Monday following the announcement. "And he does. So hopefully he'll give me some hints. That would be nice."
Decorum probably dictates that Gavin keep any inside scoop to himself. And anyway, Young and the Ducks are confident they can hold their own in the NCAA Championships without any extra edge.
The Ducks are back in the tournament field for the first time since 2018, and the first time under head coach Courtney Nagle. Oregon enters the tournament with a 15-8 record that includes wins over fellow NCAA Championship teams Washington, Arizona State and Denver, and an opening round Pac-12 Championships win over Colorado.
"We have been tested and they're ready to go," Nagle said. "We've had great practices, so I feel really good about this team and where we're going."
The Ducks reached the NCAA Championships by dominating at home and holding serve away from Eugene. They went 9-1 in home matches this spring, including a Senior Day sweep of Washington on March 27. And they were 4-4 on the road, plus 2-3 on neutral courts, including two wins at Denver to open February, over Wisconsin and the host Pioneers.
So while Nagle and assistant Elizabeth Lumpkin Robinson occupied themselves this week with finding scouting reports on Michigan's players – no help from Gavin Young required – Oregon's players will enter Friday's match confident enough in their own tennis to not get overly occupied with who is standing at the other end of the court.
"All of us, we've played a lot of tennis, so we know how to play and we're good at it," UO freshman and second-team all-Pac-12 selection Sophie Luescher said. "And I think we should be confident and just show who we are and play our game. And then of course coaches can help us a lot on the tactics side."
Luescher played in the No. 1 singles spot for Oregon throughout this season, and has amassed a 20-9 record across fall tournaments and spring dual matches. Like Young, she's just a freshman – but they're two of five Ducks with at least 15 wins across the fall and spring, all of them freshmen and sophomores.
"It's great as you think about the future for them, to have this experience their freshman year," Nagle said. "It's going to carry over for years to come. But the good thing is, they're young and they don't know what to expect, so they're just going to go out there and do what they do best, and that's compete and play hard. …
"They don't want to come home after the first match. They want to keep going. So hopefully we can do that.