While the fall season plays second fiddle to the spring season in collegiate tennis, the competition at last weekend's Midland Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational in Midland, Texas provided a telling barometer for how well the men's and women's tennis teams expect to stack up against regional schools. For the men, the result was relatively better than last year's Midland Invite, with three players advancing to the winner's bracket, compared to two last year.
Senior Isamu Tachibana took out Nicolas Moreno of the University of Texas at Arlington in two quick sets to advance, while sophomore Philipp Seifert won his second-round match against Daniel Brown of Texas A&M University.
Veterans were not the only ones making noise in Midland, with freshman Justin To defeating Chris Ho of Dartmouth College in two sets to get his first victory as an Owl. Freshman Lief Berger won his consolation match after losing to Southern Methodist University's Joe Hattrup in the first round.
However, the road ended on Saturday for all Owls, with Seifert, Berger and To all losing their matches in two sets.
With the ladies, two advanced to Saturday's competition, as sophomores Katie Gater and Dominique Harmath both moved to the Round of 16. Harmath was seeded sixth in the tournament and enjoyed a first-round bye before coming from behind to defeat Stefani Weinstein of the University of Nebraska in two sets. Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt talked about Harmath's determination in coming back to win her match.
"It was great to see Dominique fight back from down 5-1 in the first set, but, frankly, it isn't surprising, since one of her greatest assets is her competitive spirit and will to win," Schmidt said.
Gater enjoyed a great start in her Rice debut, since transferring from the University of Virginia, hanging tough in two matches to win both in three sets, the first against the University of Tulsa's Michelle Farley and the second against Julia Mongin of Abilene Christian University.
Freshman Natalie Beazant picked up her first win as an Owl, defeating Nebraska's Frederike Putthoff in two sets, but failed to advance to Saturday's play after losing to Pepperdine University's Khunpak Issara in a closely-played three-set match. Schmidt spoke highly of Beazant's effort in her first collegiate competition.
"Natalie played very solid tennis today," Schmidt said. "Despite the final outcome of her second match, it was great to see her problem-solve and find a way to win that second set."
But like their male counterparts, the Owls' tour of Midland ended on Saturday as Harmath lost her first match of the day to Texas Christian University's Stephanie Tan in two sets, 6-3, 6-2. Gater lost to Texas Tech University's Kenna Kingo, 6-1, 6-1.