This weekend, the no. 75 ranked Rice University men’s tennis team played three non-conference matches to bring their overall record to 3-2.
On Friday, the Owls swept both games of a doubleheader against the University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Texas, Pan American. Then on Sunday, the Owls lost a close matchup against Old Dominion University 4-2.
Friday’s matches were moved indoors to the Downtown Club due to rainy conditions. With the matches held indoors, singles took place first. The Owls won all but one of the 25 sets of the day en route to two victories against in-state opponents.
Sunday’s match was once again held at the George R. Brown Tennis Center. Facing conference opponent Old Dominion University, the Owls started with an early lead after winning the doubles portion of the match. However, singles proved to be a much larger challenge for the Owls as they dropped four of the five finished matches to the Monarchs with the lone win coming from junior Adam Gustaffson on court four.
Rice Head Coach Efe Ustundag said his team could not capitalize on the lead that they opened with after winning five of the first six sets of the day.
“[Old Dominion] is a team that fights,” Ustundag said. “They are going to find ways to get back into those matches and that is exactly what happened.”
Ustundag said the team was not aggressive enough in singles play to overtake the Monarchs.
“We kept playing, hoping for them to give it to us,” Ustundag said. “We didn’t go and take it from them.”
The Owls have now lost two matches –against the University of Texas, San Antonio and Old Dominion. Both games were close home losses against conference opponents.
The Owls will now travel to Starkville, Mississippi to face off against no. 21 Mississippi State and no. 48 Texas Tech University. These two teams will be the highest-ranked opponents that the Owls have faced this season so far.
According to Ustundag, the team must get used to the season’s increasing difficulty.
“Now the competition gets even harder,” Ustundag said. “Our job is going to get tougher and tougher.”
Despite being ranked lower than the teams that they will face next weekend, Ustundag said he is confident that the Owls can keep pace with the best of them.
“I don’t think there is too much of a difference between us and the teams we are about to play,” Ustundag said. “It is a matter of who converts and who does a better job putting away matches.”