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Sports Notebook

By Jonathan Myers     5/18/11 7:00pm

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.

Looking ahead to next year, the Owls will lose Hanle, Jackson and fellow senior Vasha Shiva- Shankar to graduation. Hanle and Jackson combined for 25 of the Owls' 77 singles wins, along with 35 of Rice's 49 doubles matches victories. Hanle and Jackson were cemented as the No. 1 and No. 3 players for the Owls', respectively, so a few current players, namely Harmath and Guzman, look to be replacements for those spots. Freshman Kim Anicete figures to move up after her 16 wins playing as a fourth, fifth or six seed, while Rasch and Trigo will factor in. Incoming freshmen Stephanie Nguyen and Natalie Beazant are among the top 100 junior players in the world and look to have meaningful roles, as Harmath and Anicete did this year.





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