Tennis upset by Florida State in Waco
The three doubles matches may only account for one of the seven total points in a collegiate tennis match, but that does not mean that these matches are insignificant. Since the doubles point is first, it is always important to get out to a 1-0 lead, as it gives a team a major advantage and confidence heading into singles play.
After rough doubles and singles play against the University of Texas and Louisiana State University the week before, the Owls were hoping to redeem themselves while heading on the road to Waco, Texas to take a part in the Indoor Tennis Championships. Ending the losing streak proved trickier than they thought as they dropped their third in a row to Florida State University before finally getting back in the win column with a victory over New Mexico State University.
Going into the FSU match on Saturday, the Owls were hoping to improve on their consistency and get their first marquee win of the season. Their hopes were dashed quickly as the Seminoles jumped out to a 1-0 lead and never looked back. With a combined 8-1 and 8-0 win, FSU secured the doubles point in less than 30 minutes, which stunned the Owls who never recovered. Rice tried fighting back in singles but juniors Peter Frank, Jonathan Chang and sophomore Philipp Seifert lost in first-set tiebreakers, which doomed the Owls to a 5-2 loss. Senior Sam Garforth-Bles and junior Harry Fowler recorded the day's only wins for the Owls.
By default of their loss to FSU, the Owls had to face NMSU on Sunday, which lost to Baylor University the day before. Rice did not want to head back home with a four-game losing streak intact. The Owls were ready to fight and they did not hold back against the Aggies. For the first time in four matches, the Owls captured the doubles point, thanks to dominant performances by Garforth-Bles and freshman Leif Berger ,along with Fowler and Chang. Garforth-Bles and Berger blanked their opponents 8-0, while Fowler and Chang won by a score of 8-5. Again, the doubles point appeared to be a monumental boost to the victor, as the Owls ended up winning five of the six singles matches to take a 6-1 win, ending their dreaded three-game losing streak. Fowler, Garforth-Bles, Nuesslein, Seifert and senior Christian Saravia were the champions in each of their respective matches.
With the split over the weekend, the Owls are now 3-3 for the year and are on a bit of a slide at the moment, losing three of four games. Assistant Coach Efe Ustundag reiterated how important it was to get off to a fast start. He knows that the doubles play has to improve for the Owls to have any success against higher-ranked opponents. Ustundag said he thinks that the doubles combinations need to be switched around and at the same time get more practice so partners can develop chemistry.
"Going into this weekend, I think we are going to see if some combinations work together," Ustundag said. "I think we can certainly improve on our technical and tactical aspects. There is certainly a difference between singles and doubles, and that is what our players need to understand."
Garforth-Bles agreed and mentioned that there is nothing better than getting on the court and practicing with one another. He said that putting two great players together is not necessarily going to get the job done. You need to learn one's tendencies and how your partner reacts on the court.
"Basically, we need to practice more and get more comfortable with the doubles teams," Garforth-Bles said. "To me, it is mostly about getting some matches under our belt and getting more comfortable with each other. So hopefully playing some more matches will turn it around."
The Owls are back in Houston this weekend as they host the University of Miami-Florida and Tyler Junior College. Against Miami, the Owls have won the past three years, including an important 5-2 win last year in Coral Gables, FL. Ustundag sees this as an important match to help the Owls soar again. Even though it is early in the season, he sees this match as a potential building block to their NCAA resume.
"[Miami] has a fairly new team this year, as only two of the six starters are back," Ustundag said. "We don't know the new guys well enough. We are playing at home, and this is an important match for us. Not only can it take us over .500, but it can also help us add to our resume to get to a 10th straight NCAA tournament."
Even though Tyler is not a Division-I squad, Ustundag does not overlook them because they are an elite junior college team. Also, Ustundag sees this match as important because more playing time for the freshmen is always beneficial.
"They are always top five in the country," Ustundag said. "Some of the guys who are not normally in the starting lineup get a chance to play and get some action."
Overall, even though the team has gotten off to a bumpy start this year, Garforth-Bles said that guys are still positive and the coaches believe that this team will turn things around.
"We have been practicing hard the entire year and we have gotten off to a rough start, but if we stick to our game plan and just trust ourselves, then we should be ok," Garforth-Bles said.
More from The Rice Thresher
In a thrilling five-set match, and in front of a Tudor Fieldhouse record crowd, Rice volleyball defeated No. 3 University of Texas for the first time in program history, 3-2.
Last Friday, both of Rice’s cross country teams competed at the season-opening Rice Invitational. The men’s team finished first overall, while the women’s team finished third, led by a first-place individual finish by senior Khayla Patel.