Junior pitcher Jon Duplantier never considered himself a baseball player until midway through high school. Now, just five years later, he is one of the best college baseball players in the country and is projected to be a top-100 pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft.
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The Rice baseball team entered the season with the hopes of reaching the College World Series. With a strong pitching rotation including All-American senior Blake Fox and a lineup featuring returning stars such as junior outfielders Charlie Warren and Dayne Wunderlich, the Owls appeared poised for a great season.
If you’re reading this it’s too late: You are already invested in Rice sports, and there is no need for me to convince you that they are worth your time.
As we approach the end of the basketball season, there is little interest surrounding both the men’s and women’s teams.
Recruiting students is not a problem for Rice University. Rice is one of the top academic institutions in the nation and boasts some of the best resources and facilities of any school in the country.
Despite an up-and-down year, scoring has been one thing the Rice University men’s basketball team has done consistently throughout this season. Yet again, on Saturday night, the Owls showcased their offensive firepower. Freshman guard Marcus Evans starred as the Rice University men’s basketball team won a shootout against the University of North Texas Saturday night at Tudor Fieldhouse by a score of 95-87. Evans, the leading freshman scorer in the country, poured in 25 points to lead the Owls to their seventh victory and earn his fifth Conference USA Freshman of the Week award. According to Evans, the Owls’ offensive success was a product of their confidence.
What do free pizza, a $5,000 iPhone app and Shia LaBeouf memes have in common? They are all tactics used by the Rice Athletics marketing team to promote game attendance and ticket sales.
Rice women’s basketball continued its losing streak this week with its third and fourth consecutive conference losses.
This summer, the best swimmers in the country will convene in Omaha, NE to vie for the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Two Rice University students, sophomore Kaitlyn Swinney and freshman Marie-Claire Schillinger, will be among those competitors. During the Arena Pro Swim this weekend, the Owls secured their spots in the Olympic Trials with qualifying times.
The Rice University women’s basketball team fell back into bad habits as it lost both of its games this week to conference foes.
The Rice University swim team could hardly consider winter break a “break,” as it competed in two meets despite the time off from classes.
The Rice University women’s basketball team was hard at work while most students were off campus for Thanksgiving recess this week.
The Rice University women’s basketball team was hard at work while most students were off campus for Thanksgiving recess this week.
Tudor Fieldhouse will be rocking on Thursday night as the Rice University men’s basketball team hosts Oregon State University in its first home game of the 2015-16 season. According to Head Coach Mike Rhoades, the team cannot wait to play in front of the home crowd. “We have 17 home games this year, and that’s really great for the [players],” Rhoades said. “I wish every game was a home game.”The home crowd will see a very different team from the one that took the court last year at Tudor. It will be the first home game for five freshmen on the team: guard/forward Harrison Brown, guards Connor Cashaw and Marcus Evans and forwards Marquez Letcher-Ellis and Amir Smith. Sophomore forward Egor Koulechov, who transferred from Arizona State University, will also be playing in his first official game at Tudor Fieldhouse. Rhoades said that while these players are new to the Rice program, he is not afraid to let them play. “We need them to play significant minutes and make an impact,” Rhoades said. “We’re throwing them in the fire right as the season starts, but that’s the fun of it.”The newcomers are not the only players being challenged. Rice opened the season with two road games on the west coast against strong opponents: the University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Francisco. In their first game of the year, the Owls fell to No. 14 California 97-65. Egor Koulechov led the way for Rice with 19 points and eight rebounds, but it was not enough to defeat the Golden Bears. The Owls played San Francisco on Monday night before returning home to prepare for Oregon State. Thursday will mark the fourth meeting between Rice and Oregon State. The Beavers have won two of the three previous matchups, including a 67-54 victory over the Owls last November. Oregon State competes in the Pacific 12 Conference, a conference that currently has four schools ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Beavers return all five starters from a team that went 17-14 under first-year Head Coach Wayne Tinkle. They are led by senior guard Gary Payton Jr., who was honored as the Pac-12 defensive player of the year last season and was named to the first team all-conference. According to Rhoades, the matchup will be a challenge for the Owls. “They’re very good,” Rhoades said. “Coach Tinkle has done a great job with his program in just one year.”The likely starting lineup for Oregon State includes Payton, senior guard Langston Morris-Walker, senior forward Olaf Schaftenaar, junior guard Malcolm Duvivier and freshman forward Drew Eubanks. These five players started the Beavers’ season opening 74-52 victory over Northwest Christian University.The Rice starting lineup, however, remains in flux. The Owls were forced to adapt after losing their top scorer, junior guard Marcus Jackson, and a highly touted newcomer, freshman guard Chad Lott, to knee injuries before the season began. The starters against California included senior guard Max Guercy, freshman guard Marcus Evans, sophomore guard Bishop Mency, junior center Andrew Drone and sophomore forward Egor Koulechov. According to Rhoades, the lineup is not set yet, but the uncertainty may be helping the team. “It’s a tryout every day,” Rhoades said. “We’ve improved our competitiveness because guys think, ‘If I beat that guy out today, I’m going to play more than him.’”Rice is hoping its competitiveness can help it to defeat top-tier programs like Oregon State. According to Rhoades, the Owls are confident that if they play hard, they can win this game. “Getting close isn’t good enough,” Rhoades said. “For those 40 minutes, let’s be on edge, let’s be aggressive, let’s be loose, let’s be very confident and let’s see what we can do.”Rice will look to win its third straight home opener when it takes the court at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19 at Tudor Fieldhouse. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network and broadcast on TuneIn Radio.
According to the American Volleyball Coaches Association, there was no better volleyball player in the country last week than Rice sophomore setter Madison McDaniel. McDaniel was named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week for her performances in wins over conference rivals No. 22 Western Kentucky University and the University of Southern Mississippi last week. In the two wins, she posted a combined 109 assists and 27 digs in eight total sets. Although McDaniel thought she played well this week, she said she was surprised by the award.“I was so excited,” McDaniel said. “I actually didn’t really know until I got tagged in a Twitter post then got a call from my old club coach, and he told me how huge of a deal it was.”The award was a culmination of a long journey — a journey that led her less than an hour’s drive from her home. McDaniel hails from The Woodlands, TX, just under 40 miles from Rice. According to McDaniel, her father first pushed her to play volleyball, but her older sister Morgan first inspired her to commit to the sport. “[My sister] was trying out and of course I wanted to be like her,” McDaniel said. “So when I was in fourth grade I started playing on my first club team.”McDaniel continued playing on club and school teams while honing her skills throughout middle school and high school in The Woodlands. According to McDaniel, it was easy for her to fall in love with volleyball. “My favorite part about volleyball is that there is constant action on the court,” McDaniel said. “You see the ball and you instantly react, and you’re always needed for something.”While attending high school, McDaniel was honored as an AVCA Phenom in 2012 and was named to the high school All-Texas Second Team in 2013 and 2014. After high school, McDaniel chose to attend Arizona State University. She appeared in 25 sets as a freshman, accumulating 23 kills, 14 kills and 12 blocks. After her freshman year, however, she chose to transfer to Rice, a decision she said was easy after meeting with the team. “Of course when I visited I fell in love with the coaches and the players,” McDaniel said. “I have never played with a group of girls who are so nice and supportive of one another.”Since coming to Rice, McDaniel has accumulated 49 kills, 892 assists, 266 digs and 44 blocks. She has been named Conference USA setter of the week five times. While McDaniel is honored to receive the individual award, she remains focused on team-oriented goals. Currently, the Owls are 19-9 with a 9-5 record in Conference USA. They have two games remaining before the conference tournament begins on Nov. 20 in San Antonio. According to McDaniel, the team is hoping for much more success. “We have so much talent in all areas of the court and we are always composed in tough situations,” McDaniel said. “I really think this will help push us to hopefully finish out the season by winning the conference championship.”The Owls’ next game is Thursday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in Tudor Fieldhouse against the University of Texas, El Paso. Rice volleyball will be celebrating Senior Night to honor graduating seniors Kyley Reed, Kimberly Vaio and Noelle Whitlock. The Owls will then have one final road match against the University of Alabama, Birmingham to conclude the regular season.
Seeking their 21st consecutive conference championship, the Rice University baseball team has begun their fall training and have announced their season schedule. According to the Owls’ newly released 2016 schedule, they will open their season with a home game against the University of Arizona on Feb. 16. That will be the first of 54 regular season games, 31 of which will be at Reckling Park. Rice will begin its slate of Conference USA games on March 18 in San Antonio against the University of Texas, San Antonio. They will then play a three-game series against conference foes Old Dominion University, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Western Kentucky University, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The Owls will face off against defending Conference USA champion Florida International University May 6-8 in Miami before playing Florida Atlantic University, which ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll at the end of last season. Rice will finish conference play with a three-game series against Louisiana Tech University May 19-21.According to senior pitcher Blake Fox, the Owls cannot overlook their conference schedule despite the limited number of nationally ranked teams.“You’ve got to give credit to our conference,” Fox said. “We definitely have some teams that are tough opponents and we’ve seen that in the past.”Strong opponents will come from both inside and outside Conference USA. The Owls will take on seven different teams that ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll at the end of the 2015 season. The first of those games will come on Feb. 23 against Dallas Baptist University, which finished the 2015 season ranked No. 17 in the country and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the past five years. Then, beginning on Feb. 26, the Owls will take part in the Minute Maid Classic held at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. During this event, they will play three opponents that were ranked last season: the University of Arkansas, Texas Christian University and University of Louisiana, Lafayette.Senior infielder Grayson Lewis said many of the players are especially excited to play Louisiana-Lafayette because the Ragin’ Cajuns eliminated the Owls from the NCAA tournament regionals last season. “We definitely owe Louisiana-Lafayette a little something after regionals,” Lewis said. Rice will begin its annual series against the University of Houston with a game at Cougar Field on March 22. The Owls will play Houston two more times, on May 10 and 17. The Cougars ranked No. 23 in the coaches’ poll at the end of the 2015 season with a record of 43-20, but the Owls eliminated them from the NCAA tournament with a 3-2 win in 20 innings. Houston, however, won last season’s regular season series over Rice two games to one. According to Fox, the games against Houston will be some of the most fun for him as a player. “Just because of the way the [Houston] games went last year, I’m definitely looking forward to those games,” Fox said. “I’d say those games are the ones I’m looking forward to most.”Rice will finish its slate of games against last year’s top 25 with matchups against Texas A&M University on April 5 and conference foe FAU in mid-May. Other non-conference opponents include Texas State University, Sam Houston State University, the University of Central Florida, Lamar University and East Carolina University. While the schedule is long and full of highly ranked opponents, the players feel optimistic. When asked about his hopes for the season, senior infielder Connor Teykl said only two words. “Obviously, Omaha,” Teykl said, referencing the city that hosts the College World Series. The Owls will hope to make a trip to the College World Series for the first time since 2008. While the regular season does not start until February, Rice’s journey to Omaha has already begun. The Owls will play an exhibition game against Lamar, one of their 2016 opponents, on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Reckling Park.
Before Rice football’s game against the Texas Longhorns last week, Head Coach David Bailiff stressed the importance of that game was to prepare for conference play. This week, Rice will open their Conference USA schedule against the University of North Texas.According to Bailiff, this week’s game will be the first step toward Rice’s ultimate goal of winning the conference for the first time since 2013.“That’s what it’s all about,” Bailiff said. “Winning Conference USA.”The Owls (1-1) will travel to Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas to take on the Mean Green (0-1). Founded in 1890 as a teachers’ college, the University of North Texas enrolls 29,723 undergraduates. The football program has won two Division I bowl games in its history. Most recently, the Mean Green won the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2013 to cap a 9-4 season. Although the North Texas football program began in 1953, Rice and North Texas did not play each other until 1988.In their sixth meeting with North Texas since that 1988 game, Rice will attempt to bounce back from a 42-28 loss to the Texas Longhorns Saturday night.According to Bailiff, the loss, though disappointing, provided some positives to carry into this week’s game.“Even in the loss, we can learn a lot of lessons to improve this football team,” Bailiff said. “I think this is [a game] that will strengthen our resolve.”North Texas will be looking to make improvements of its after a season-opening 31-13 loss to Southern Methodist University. Senior quarterback Andrew McNulty threw for 128 yards and ran for 50 more and senior running back Antoinne Jimmerson ran for 40 yards and a touchdown as the Mean Green led 13-10 entering the fourth quarter. The defense, however, surrendered 21 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to send the Mean Green to their 16th season opening loss in the last 19 seasons.North Texas’ roster has changed significantly since a 4-8 season last year. They return five starters from an offense that ranked No. 79 in Division I in points per game. The returners include McNulty, senior tight end Marcus Smith, senior wide receiver Carlos Harris, junior wide receiver Darvin Kidsy, and sophomore center Kaydon Kirby. The defense, however, returns only two starters: senior cornerback Kenny Buyers and junior linebacker Fred Scott.This new-look North Texas defense will be tasked with stopping an Owls offense that has averaged 502.5 yards in its first two games, including 314.5 rushing yards per game.Freshman running back Samuel Stewart said that practice with the other Rice running backs has led to this success.“It’s a competition everyday,” Stewart said. “Everyday in practice we’re pushing each other and making sure we’re good in pass protection, ball security, making our reads in the zone game, all of that.”Stewart was not the only one to stress the value of practice. Last week, Bailiff noted that the players were excited to begin watching film and practicing for the Texas game. After a spirited performance this past weekend, Bailiff said he hopes the team can keep its motivation high.“We’ve got to go to North Texas with the same demeanor and the same effort we displayed [against Texas],” Bailiff said.Rice will try to ride that effort to a victory in its Conference USA opener this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas. The game will be televised nationally on Fox College Sports.
During his “We choose to go the Moon” speech on Sept. 12, 1962, former United States President John F. Kennedy asked the crowd “Why does Rice play Texas?” and explained, “Because it’s hard.” According to Head Coach David Bailiff, Kennedy was right.“I think [Kennedy] summed it up,” Bailiff said. “It’s because it’s hard.”On Saturday, Rice (1-0) will travel to Darrell K. Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin to take on the University of Texas, Austin (0-1). Despite the daunting challenge, senior running back Luke Turner said Rice is relishing the opportunity to go up against the Longhorns.“It’s really exciting,” Turner said. “Not every game we get to play in is against a big opponent like Texas.”Texas plays in the Big 12 Conference, one of the “Power Five” conferences. Texas’ football stadium holds over 100,000 fans, and its student body with 38,463 enrolled undergraduates dwarfs Rice’s student body with only 3,965 undergraduates. The Longhorns have won four national championships, most recently in 2005. The last time Rice faced off against Texas was in 2011 when the Owls fell to the Longhorns 34-9. Though it has been four seasons since their last matchup, Rice and Texas have a long-standing rivalry. From 1914 to 1996, both schools belonged to the Southwest Athletic Conference. After playing against each other for the first time in 1914, Texas and Rice have faced off 93 times. Texas leads the all-time series 71-21-1. The last time Rice beat Texas was in 1994, and the Owls have fallen in all 12 games since then.According to Bailiff, Rice needs to focus on itself rather than the stature of their opponent.“We don’t really have to worry so much about them,” Bailiff said. “We’ve got to worry about us, just play our game and be the best team that we can be this week.” Going into Saturday’s game, Rice will try to maintain its momentum from a 56-16 win over Wagner College last weekend. The win was the first season-opening victory for the Owls since 2008. The Longhorns, meanwhile, will try to rebound from a loss last week. Led by second-year Head Coach Charlie Strong, Texas fell to No. 11 Notre Dame 38-3. The Longhorns managed only 163 yards of offense in the defeat, passing for 106 yards and rushing for 60. Junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes led the passing offense, going 10 of 19 for 93 yards passing, and senior running back Jonathan Gray was the Longhorns’ leading rusher with 40 yards rushing on eight carries. Despite Texas’s loss, Bailiff said Rice is not approaching the game any differently.“When a team struggles like that, they’re going to turn around the next week,” Bailiff said. “You know those are proud young men, that’s a proud program and I really feel like we’re gonna see a very different University of Texas team.”Texas has undergone significant roster turnover since last season, losing six starters from last year’s defense that allowed 23.8 points per game, the 32nd best in the country last year. Returning starters on defense include senior cornerback Duke Thomas, senior linebacker Peter Jinkens, junior nose tackle Hassan Ridgeway, junior safety Dylan Haines and sophomore safety Jason Hall. Rice will be wearing special white helmets for the game in Austin. On the back, there is a circular black sticker emblazoned with the word “Froggy” in honor of legendary Rice player Froggy Williams. Williams, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the “unofficial historian” of Rice Athletics according to Bailiff, passed away this summer. While stressing that the purpose of this game is to prepare for Conference USA play, Bailiff said he knows playing Texas means a lot to him and his team. “This [game] is one you go into dreaming big,” Bailiff said. “We’re dreaming big right now.” Rice will try to make those dreams come true Saturday night in Austin. Rice will matchup against Texas at 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 and the game will be televised on the Longhorn Network.