Freshman Nancy Benda

The Hope College women’s tennis team will start the NCAA Division III Tournament against Wheaton (Ill.) College on Thursday, the NCAA announced on Monday.

The Flying Dutch will play in the first round at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field Tennis Complex at a time to be announced. Seven teams, including regional host Chicago, are vying for a spot in the May 19-21 national championships in Claremont, Calif.

This is Hope’s third consecutive national tournament appearance and ninth overall. The Flying Dutch (16-5 overall) earned their berth by winning the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament last week.

Wheaton (15-5 overall) qualified by taking first at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament. It is the Thunder’s ninth NCAA Tournament appearance overall and seventh in a row.

The Hope-Wheaton winner will play eighth-ranked Carnegie-Mellon (Pa.) in Friday’s second round. Carnegie-Mellon is 17-4 on the season.

Other first-round matches Thursday pit No. 24 Carleton (Minn.) College vs. Westminster (Pa.) College and Principia (Ill.) College against No. 12 Chicago. Westminster owns an 18-1 record, while Carleton is 18-2. Principia is 11-10 overall, while Chicago is 10-10.

Regional semifinals will be held on Friday, while the regional final will be played on Saturday.

Hope is 3-8 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, while Wheaton owns a 9-8 postseason record.

The Flying Dutch last faced Wheaton in the 2011 season opener and lost 7-2.

“Wheaton has been a very strong team. In the past, we haven’t done so well against them,” Hope coach Adam Ford said. “We’re a lot stronger team this year. We look forward to testing our skills.”