Sports in brief: Track, tennis, swimming and basketball
Women’s indoor track finishes second at Conference USA Championships
After putting up its most points at the indoor championships in eight years, Rice’s women’s indoor track team finished second in the conference championships to the University of Texas, El Paso. The meet came right down to the wire. The Owls entered the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, tied with the Miners at 105 points, but UTEP finished second and Rice finished fourth.
Standout performers for Rice included junior Katie Jensen and senior Daisy Ding. Jensen finished first in both the mile and the 3000-meter events and set a C-USA meet record in the mile with a time of 4:39.61. Ding added Rice’s other individual title, finishing first in the triple jump for the fourth time in her Rice career with a distance of 12.65 meters.
For about an hour, the results of the meet were unofficial because Rice put the finish in the pole vault under protest. Freshman Kylie Swiekatowski and junior Ayane Rossano finished second and third respectively in the event, just behind junior Morgan McIntyre of Western Kentucky University. Had the protest been successful, Rice would have won the meet because its pole vaulters would have earned more team points. However, the results stood and the Owls finished second. Head coach Jim Bevan said he was satisfied with his team’s performance despite the near miss.
“We competed throughout and it really came down to the 3K, pole vault, triple jump and 4x400,” Bevan said. “We came on very strong at the end. I’m very proud of our ladies.”
Men’s Tennis earns landmark victory over LSU
Rice men’s tennis took home a road victory over the weekend when it defeated Louisiana State University 4-0 in its first win in Baton Rouge since 2004. The victory avenged a loss in the NCAA tournament last season when the Tigers knocked out the Owls in the first round.
Rice took an early lead by winning the doubles point with wins on courts two and three by scores of 6-3. Then, in singles, four of the six Owls players won the opening set. Sophomores Jake Hansen and Emanuel Llamas earned straight set wins to put Rice ahead 3-0, and senior David Warren clinched the victory with a win in a second set tiebreak.
The last time the teams met, Rice won the doubles point and raced to an early lead in singles as well. That time, the Owls could not finish off the victory. This time, however, Rice would not be denied. Head coach Efe Ustundag said he was nervous until the final point was won despite the large margin of victory.
"The way our matches with LSU have gone, if [Warren] had not gotten it done right there, you never know what would have happened,” Ustundag said. “It was big for [Warren] to be able to end it right there."
Rice is now 6-4 on the season in dual matches. Its next competition will take place at the Blue and Gray National Tennis Classic in Montgomery, Alabama on Friday and Saturday Feb. 24 and 25.
Swimming prepares for Conference USA Championships
Rice swimming will compete for conference supremacy beginning this Wednesday at the C-USA Championships in Atlanta. The Owls will be trying to earn their first conference title since 2014 and their fourth since 2011.
Rice is coming off a strong performance in the Quad Meet at Louisiana State University. The Owls won two of three dual meets in the event, their most recent team competition leading up to the conference championships. More recently, junior Kiley Beall was named the Conference USA Swimmer of the Week for the week of Feb. 7 to 13 for her performance in the University of Houston First Chance Meet. Beall joins junior Alicia Caldwell, sophomore Marie-Claire Schillinger and junior Jaecey Parham as Rice swimmers to win the C-USA Swimmer of the Week award this season.
Rice has finished second in the conference title meet each of the past two years. This year, the Owls hope to overcome two-time defending champion Florida International University. The meet will last four days and a champion will be crowned on Saturday.
Women’s basketball sweeps weekend games
Rice’s women’s basketball team keeps on rolling. After losing their first four conference games, the Owls have gone 7-3 in their past 10 to even their C-USA record at 7-7. This past weekend, Rice went on the road to defeat the University of Texas, San Antonio and the University of Texas, El Paso to push their winning streak to four games.
On Thursday, Rice rallied from a 14-point hole in the third quarter to defeat the UTSA 66-61. Junior forward Shani Rainey scored a season-high 22 points and added nine rebounds. She also gave Rice its first lead of the game with 47 seconds remaining on a three-point play. Head coach Tina Langley said she was thrilled with the team’s win.
“What a great road win, so many people stepped up in key moments,” Langley said. “That’s what this team is all about. Whatever is asked of them, they are ready to do. This is a special team. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Saturday, Rice picked up another big win in El Paso. The Owls defeated the Miners 80-76 to clinch a spot in the conference tournament. Senior guard Maya Hawkins scored 13 of her team-leading 25 points in the last seven minutes of the game to help the Owls earn their 16th win of the season, their most since 2012. Sophomore Nicole Iademarco put up a season-high 23 points in the win and earned the C-USA player of the week award from College Sports Madness. According to Langley, the win was another sign of the team’s toughness.
“That was another relentless team win,” Langley said. “Again we had to overcome a lot of adversity, but time and time again we had different players step up.”
The Owls next play on Thursday on the road at the University of Southern Mississippi. They will be looking to get over the .500 mark in C-USA for the first time this season.
More from The Rice Thresher
In a year full of achievements, the Rice women’s basketball team finally accomplished the most important one of all. The Owls won the Conference USA Championship Saturday night, defeating Middle Tennessee State University 69-54 to earn the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
Rice will have a chance to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday after a 64-57 comeback win over Western Kentucky University in the Conference USA Tournament semifinal on Friday night.
Rice women’s basketball led wire-to-wire in a 61-43 victory over the University of North Texas in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA basketball tournament. The Owls will take on Western Kentucky University in the semifinals Friday evening.