With the desert winds whipping up to nearly 20 miles per hour at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., it seemed that Mother Nature was providing enough competition for the women's tennis team to deal with. Unfortunately for Rice (7-3), the Wildcats and the wind proved to be too much for the team to handle on Saturday, as Arizona (8-2) notched a dominating 6-1 victory over the Owls. The doubles matches were no indicator of the lopsided nature of the match, as Rice and Arizona split the first two matches before the Owls succumbed in the final doubles matchup. Senior Jessica Jackson and sophomore Daniela Trigo provided the only Owls' victory in the doubles round. The singles matches started off well for Rice, as freshman Kimberly Anicete had a quick 6-2, win over Arizona's Jane Huh, bringing the score to 2-1 Wildcat lead. The tide turned in Arizona's favor from there on out, as they tallied two straight two-set victories to clinch the match. The remaining matches were played out, but with no different results for Rice as Sarah Landsman defeated senior Rebekka Hanle in three sets in the top-seeded contest and Susan McRann took out junior Alex Rasch in two sets (6-3, 7-5). Hanle had battled back to win the second set 6-4 after a 6-4 defeat in the first set, but the third set was all Landsman, who made quick work of Hanle by winning the third set 6-0. While Arizona was ranked 59th compared to Rice's ranking of 48th in the nation, the match was not considered an upset due to the unfavorable weather conditions and home-court advantage enjoyed by the Wildcats.
With Rice having been vanquished on Saturday by a lower-ranked opponent, Sunday's contest brought a higher-ranked squad to the opposite side of the net. The University of Utah (4-5) came in boasting a ranking of 43rd, yet had also lost to Arizona 6-1 on Friday. In the de facto consolation match, Rice left no one wondering as to who was the better team, besting the Utes 5-2. After each team took a doubles match, Jackson and Trigo came through for the Owls, winning their second doubles match in as many days, this time clinching the point for Rice. Arriving at singles play armed with a 1-0 lead, Rice never looked back, taking the first three singles points to clinch a match victory with a 4-0 lead. Hanle, Trigo, and freshman Dominique Harmath all won their matches in convincing fashion, with Trigo and Hanle winning 6-2, 6-4 and 6-3,6-4 respectively. Harmath lost the second set 7-4, but rallied for a 6-3 win in the third set to win the point for Rice. The remaining three matches were now being played for pride with the Utes picking up victories in fourth- and second-seeded contests as Jackson and junior Ana Guzman lost their singles points for the second straight day, while Anicete capped off a perfect weekend in individual play with her second singles win, a hard-fought three set match in which she won the last set by a 10-7 margin.
The now 44th-ranked Owls are nearing the midway point of their spring season with 12 matches left to play before the Conference USA Tournament in Orlando Fla., including four against C-USA foes and seven against squads ranked in the top 60 in the nation. Rice will play four straight road matches, starting tomorrow against the University of Colorado in Fayetteville, Ark., before coming back to Jake Hess Tennis Stadium for the final eight matches of the regular season.
- Jonathan Myers