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Women's tennis drops close match against TCU

By Marie Walsh     4/19/12 7:00pm

The women's tennis team certainly knows how to keep its fans on their toes. Last week, the team played Southern Methodist University on Saturday, April 14 and Texas Christian University on Sunday, April 15. The back-to-back games had two very different outcomes on the same weekend. Taking on SMU in Dallas, the Owls won 6-0. The teams competed in a strictly singles competition.

Sophomore Leah Fried took the first singles win by default, due to SMU having only five tennis players. Sophomore Kimberly Anicete, senior Ana Guzman, freshman Natalie Beazant, junior Katie Gater and sophomore Dominique Harmath all won their matches. This competition further motivated the team to take on the no. 38 ranked team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, TCU.

Sunday, the Owls traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on the Horned Frogs. With Rice only two positions above TCU in the ITA rankings, the Owls knew they were in for some heavy competition.

"TCU is having a good year also, so we knew this would be a very competitive match," Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt said.

Having been delayed for a short time due to rain, the competition started as per usual with doubles. Beazant and Harmath, ranked no. 46 in doubles in ITA, were unable to hold off Millie Nichols and Olivia Smith, ranked no. 72, thereby giving TCU the first point of the day. Rice was defeated in the first doubles 8-4. Gater and Guzman made a strong attempt, but once again were unable to hold off TCU, who went 8-7 and 7-5 against them in doubles. Anicete and Fried also made a valiant attempt but lost 8-5. Schmidt felt things could have been carried through better.

"I thought we started out quickly in doubles, but we didn't seize some opportunities when we had them," Schmidt said. "I think we just needed to play a bit more aggressive when we had some leads in doubles. I was pleased with the way we fought back into the match in singles, and, in the end we just fell a bit short,"

Rice went strong in singles, with Beazant winning her sets 6-3 and 6-2. Harmath followed by winning 6-4 and 6-3 in her sets. Guzman also won her close match, making it her 45th win in singles over her entire college career.

"I felt really good about my match at TCU. I was down 5-2 in the second set after losing the first set and started playing a lot better. I was able to pull out the second set and third set and it was a nice way for me to end my final regular season," Guzman said.

Gater and Fried played intense games but fell short of winning their respective singles matches. Rice placed second, third and sixth in singles for the day, thereby losing against TCU 4-3.

"I felt like our team had a tough one against TCU, we definitely had some chances but I think the loss is going to make us stronger for Conference this weekend," Gater said.

Keeping their spirits up, the girls left Wednesday for the Conference USA Tournament in Memphis, Tenn., which began yesterday, Schmidt said.

"Everyone is very excited for the conference tournament. We feel like we are in a good spot going into the tournament, and now it will be a matter of executing and playing our game."

The Owls will compete today at 2 p.m. against the winner of the University of Central Florida and SMU game. In order to win the tournament, the Owls must win three consecutive matches.

"I think that we have a chance to win conference as the No. 2 seed and think that if we all play together we will be able to get that conference ring that we all want so much. The toughest competition will definitely be Tulsa, Memphis, and Tulane," Guzman said. They are the higher seeds and we will most likely face Tulane in the semifinals."

Schmidt is concentrated on not letting the team get ahead of themselves.

"We are just taking the tournament one match at a time, so our only focus right now is that match on Friday."

As the timing for this major championship falls on the last week of classes, there is, of course, the question of whether that will affect the team members' performance.

"We have known all year that it was going to be this week, so our team has been preparing accordingly." Schmidt said, "Our team is very diligent in the classroom, so this should not be a problem for us."

In order for the team to advance further to the NCAA tournament, they must either win the C-USA tournament or achieve an at-large bid based on their ITA ranking.

"We are currently on the bubble for an at-large bid," Schmidt said. "I think we definitely have the talent and deserve to be in the tournament, but the most important thing for us right now is to focus on the next match."

The players have great aspirations to qualify to the NCAA tournament from the C-USA tournament.

"Yes, we're very excited for Friday. We've been working hard all year to get to where we are and we're hoping to get even further with an NCAA championship inserted into our schedule," said Harmath.

If Rice wins its match on Friday, it will move on to take on the next team tomorrow at noon.

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