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Women's Tennis reaches highest ranking in history

By Marie Walsh     3/6/12 6:00pm

While most of Rice spent last week kicking back and relaxing on spring break, the women's tennis team was hard at work on the court. The Owls had three prestigious victories over Oklahoma University, Brigham Young University and the University of South Florida. Despite having started with a loss against Texas A&M, Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt stayed positive.

"I think the team learned a lot from our loss at Texas A&M and that experience helped us in our wins against OU, BYU and USF," Schmidt said.

She was ecstatic with the subsequent winning performances.

"Our team fought really hard and believed in themselves and each other," Schmidt said. "These victories were total team efforts, and I'm proud of our team for the guts and fight that they have been showing,"

Standout performances over these three matches came from freshman Natalie Beazant, junior Katie Gater, and freshman Stephanie Nguyen in singles, and Beazant and sophomore Dominique Harmath, Gater and senior Ana Guzman, and Nguyen and sophomore Kimberly Anicete in doubles.

"I was really happy with my performance this past weekend," Gater said. "I feel like I am getting more and more confident with my game and have played better as the season has gone on. It's also great to play with Ana Guzman in doubles, as she is a fantastic player."

These successful showings earned the team a ranking as the 27th-best team in the nation this week, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The team's best finish to the season was in 1995 with a 35th-place ranking, but the Owls feel entirely capable of surpassing that this year.

"With our continued hard work and focus, I do believe we are capable of beating the record," Harmath said.

Gater knows the team can break the record, but they need to take it one match at a time.

"Our team's focus right now is on the next match and taking one point at a time, and then the results will follow," Gater said.

The general focus is on the next few matches, which will be against Marquette University and the University of Illinois. Harmath said she feels the Owls are ready, though.

"We are looking forward to the challenge," Harmath said. "We expect to build on the success that we have had the last few matches and continue to fight hard and play with intensity."

The next matches will be at Rice's Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on March 16 against Marquette and March 19 against Illinois.

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