The 66th-ranked Owls had little hope of making the NCAA Tournament via an at-large invite, so the Conference USA Championship would be their only avenue for furthering their season. Given a fourth seed, the women's tennis team enjoyed a first round bye before taking on the University of Central Florida (12-8), the host school. The fifth seeded Knights could not keep up with Rice's well-tuned doubles pairs as sophomore Daniella Trigo and senior Jessica Jackson started off the competition with an 8-3 victory. Senior Rebekka Hanle and junior Ana Guzman finished their match next by a score of 8-4 to give Rice the doubles point. Jackson and Guzman increased the Owls' lead to 3-0 before freshman Dominique Harmath finished of UCF's Alexis Rodriguez in two quick sets to clinch the victory for Rice. All in all, it was a perfect match for the Owls, who failed to drop a set during the entire quarterfinal matchup.
The semifinals were next against No. 22 University of Tulsa (24-2), but the Golden Hurricane were shaky at the beginning, as the pairing of Harmath and junior Alex Rasch started off the match with an 8-5 victory in the second-seeded doubles set. Trigo and Jackson lost to Tulsa's Bonny Davidson and Sam Vickers 9-7, but Hanle and Guzman won the doubles point for the Owls, winning the tiebreaker set 7-5 to give them a 9-8 victory. Unfortunately for the squad, the doubles matches would prove to be the highlight of the afternoon, as Tulsa won the first four singles matches to give them a 4-1 victory. Trigo and Guzman were outplayed 7-5, 6-2 and 6-4,6- 2, respectively to give the Golden Hurricane a 2-1 victory. Harmath was next to fall, losing in two sets, and Jackson won her second set to push her match to a deciding third set, but lost 6-3 in the final set, which ended the Owls stay in Orlando, Fla. On May 3, Rice learned they were not selected as part of the field of 64 schools in the NCAA tournament, so their 2011 season was over.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.