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Tennis aces weekend test

Courtesy Cloris Cai

By Madison Buzzard     1/29/19 10:43pm

Men’s Tennis

Men’s tennis extended its undefeated start to five straight victories, compiling a 27-2 overall record in singles and doubles play thus far. 

Rice’s first four opponents were Texas-based universities, but most recently, the Owls defeated Western Michigan University 4-0 on Monday at home at the George R. Brown Tennis Center.

In all five matches, Rice claimed the doubles point. Against Western Michigan, sophomore Sumit Sarkar and redshirt junior Eric Rutledge earned a 6-3 victory in number one doubles to clinch the doubles point over the Broncos. Earlier against Western Michigan, sophomores Mohamed Abdel-Aziz and Conrad Russell lost 6-4 in number two doubles, but sophomore Jacob Eskeland teamed with senior Daniel Warren to win 6-2 in number three doubles.

According to head coach Efe Ustundag, maximizing success in doubles often requires on-the-fly adjustments given that each match is played to a single set.

“We felt like we had to make a couple of changes in the doubles lineup today,” Ustundag said after Rice’s victory over Western Michigan. “Sumit and Eric played a lot of tennis together last year and they gave us that grit and on-court leadership that we needed at [number] one [doubles]. It’s [also] a big change for us to have the quality we have playing at #3 doubles.  It’s nice to have the personnel to be able to move things around and be able to get results.”

Eskeland, Rutledge and freshman Adam Oscislawski each claimed victory in singles while Sarkar, Abdel-Aziz and Russell held off Bronco opponents to unfinished results, resulting in a shutout. 

This season, Eskeland has accumulated a perfect 5-0 record in singles matches.

Next, Rice travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to face Louisiana State University on Sunday as part of a dual match where both schools battle in men’s and women’s tennis. Last season, the Owls narrowly defeated the Tigers in Houston 4-3, finalized with a three-set singles victory by Sarkar.

Women’s Tennis

Women’s tennis improved to 2-1 on the season and bettered its overall singles and doubles record to 15-6 by defeating Sam Houston State University 6-1 on Sunday at the George R. Brown Tennis Center.

One match prior, Rice suffered its lone loss this season away at Baylor University; in that matchup, Rice narrowly lost 4-3.The loss was an improvement over last year, however, when Rice was shutout at home against the Bears. In this year’s contest, Rice earned the initial doubles point over Baylor but lost four of six singles matches and succumbed to the Big-12 foe; each singles loss was in straight sets.

Head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said the early-season loss exposes some areas for improvement for Rice.

“We’ve been putting a lot of work in on our doubles and I was pleased to see that work pay off, but it was a shame that we could not carry that early momentum over into singles,” Schmidt said. “Early season matches always give you a clear idea of where [the team is] at this moment and what we need to work on.”

Rice responded to the loss in its victory over Sam Houston State. To start against the Bearkats, at number three doubles, freshman Victoria Smirnova and sophomore Anna Bowtell raced to a 6-2 win. Then, at number two doubles, freshman Anastasia Smirnova and junior Priya Niezgoda earned a 6-1 victory to clinch the doubles point. Rice’s number one doubles pairing of sophomore Michaela Haet and sophomore Linda Huang led in their unfinished match 4-2.

Then, five of six singles matches went Rice’s way. Huang earned the first singles victory with a straight-sets win at number three singles. Bowtell, Niezgoda, Victoria Smirnova and Haet also claimed wins over Bearkat opponents.

Victoria Smirnova and Bowtell are undefeated in three singles matches this year. Together, the pair is also undefeated in doubles play.

Next, Rice travels to face Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge on Sunday as part of the dual match. The Owls look to rebound from last season’s 4-3 away loss to the Tigers.

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