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Women's tennis starts season ranked 22nd

By Nicki Chamberlain-Simon     1/13/14 6:00pm

This weekend, Rice University women's tennis team, which is ranked 22nd in the nation, will kick off its 2014 season. Two years ago, the team began the season 71st in the country, and the Owls climbed to No. 30 by the beginning of last year. 

With the start of a new season, Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt said the women's tennis team will continue its pursuit to success.

"Our main goal remains the same: to improve every day," Schmidt said.



The Owls will begin their season at home against Lamar University at 1 p.m. Saturday. Last year, their opening match against Lamar resulted in a 6-1 Rice victory.    

The team will be led by No. 1 singles player junior Natalie Beazant, who finished last season as the 41st-ranked singles player in the nation. Beazant made it to the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA tournament, setting a record for the best performance by a Rice women's tennis player in the NCAA singles tournament. Beazant has also made her stamp this fall after winning the Women's Longhorn Invitational at Austin Nov. 8.

Schmidt said she is excited to see the development of Beazant as the season progresses. She said Beazant's first two years have been amazing and believes Beazant will continue to excel in her final two.     

"Natalie has been extremely solid for our team the past two years, and I expect more of the same," Schmidt said. "She brings a great energy to the court, sets a tone with her attitude and performance, and is the consummate team player."

Senior Dominique Harmath has also contributed significantly to the team, qualifying for the NCAA singles tournament last spring.

Sophomore Solomiya Zinko performed well at this fall's Cougar Classic tournament at the University of Houston, where she claimed the No. 6 singles title and the No. 2 doubles title with Harmath.

Other players to watch will be junior Liat Zimmerman, who played No. 3 singles last year, and freshman Alison Ho. In addition to Ho, freshman Katherine Ip will be joining the squad this year from Hong Kong.

While the team only lost two seniors from last year, Rice will be facing other changes with the Conference USA adjustments. The University of North Texas and Florida International University have been added to the conference for the 2013-14 season. While more changes are in store for next year, top competitors Tulane University and the University of Tulsa will remain in the conference for another year.

Schmidt said expectations are high, but the Owls are equipped with the talent to deal with the difficult schedule.

"We are extremely excited about the upcoming season," Schmidt said. "We have a challenging schedule, which is great, as it will push us to our limits every day and help us be the best that we can be."



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