The Rice University women’s tennis team won the Conference USA Women’s Tennis Championship for the second consecutive year this past weekend.

The Rice University women’s tennis team won the Conference USA Women’s Tennis Championship for the second consecutive year this past weekend. The Owls traveled to Norfolk, Va. for the championships after losing 4-3 to Baylor University and winning 5-1 over the University of Texas, San Antonio to conclude the regular season. Rice headed into the championships with an overall record of 17-6 and a conference record of 2-1. With consecutive C-USA championship wins, Rice will advance to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship in May.

Rice got off to a winning start in the championships with a 4-0 victory over Old Dominion University, which advanced the Owls to the semifinals. Rice then won another shutout 4-0 victory against the University of North Texas. In the finals, Rice faced the University of Tulsa and prevailed 4-2, clinching their second-straight conference title and berth to the NCAA Championship.

Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt said she has immense pride for the team and how far they have come despite setbacks.

“I’m just really proud of our team and their effort,” Schmidt said. “Coming back after losing some first sets and battling – they’ve worked really hard to get here, and to finish it off with a victory is just really sweet.”

After securing the doubles point, Rice needed to win three of six singles matches. Both Rice and Tulsa won two points early into the matches. With the score at 3-2, freshman Katherine Ip won her last two sets to give Rice its final winning point.

Ip said she was very happy with her performance but acknowledged that much credit is owed to her teammates.

“I really am excited,” Ip said. “It was my first conference tournament, and I am really happy to have clinched the championship for Rice. But it was all teamwork – without all the support from my teammates, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Ip also said team effort is critical in college tennis, unlike other forms of competitive tennis. She said her season started out roughly due to her becoming accustomed to the differences in the collegiate game from the junior game.

“I did not start the season that well, mainly because I was adjusting to the transition, but later on I got used to it,” Ip said. “Before college, I played in the ITF circuits and the Junior Grand Slams, which are all individual tournaments, so college tennis is very different for me. It’s all about teamwork here.”

Rice now has an automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship and will learn their future opponents on April 29, when the NCAA releases the bracket for the tournament. The first round starts on May 9 at 16 different regional sites. The 16 teams to win regionals will then advance to the second round in Athens, Ga.