Men’s tennis prepares for C-USA Tournament
This past weekend, Rice University faced fellow Texan teams Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University. After losing in a 7-0 match against TCU on Saturday, the Owls managed to beat rival SMU 4-2 and improved their record to 9-12.
This past weekend, Rice University faced fellow Texan teams Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University. After losing in a 7-0 match against TCU on Saturday, the Owls managed to beat rival SMU 4-2 and improved their record to 9-12. The Owls are now preparing for the Conference USA Tennis Tournament and need to win the remainder of their matches to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
The Owls faced in-state opponent TCU on Saturday. TCU won the doubles point and proceeded to win three straight singles matches. Sophomore Adam Gustaffson, junior Srikar Alla and freshman Max Andrews all took their matches to third-set tiebreakers but lost each match.
Rice, however, went on to beat SMU on Sunday, April 13, when Gustaffson snagged a come-from-behind win. Down two points, Gustaffson managed to come back and win his singles match. Other singles wins against SMU included freshman David Warren, Alla and Andrews. This win gives the Owls an opportunity to claim a spot in the NCAA Tournament, as they claimed a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament.
Alla said he was happy his play improved between the two games.
“I played well and my match against TCU was great,” Alla said. “I played decently and won the second set and unfortunately got unlucky in the tie-breaker. Against SMU, however, my play was better, and I thought I took a lot more chances. It was good to come out on top.”
Head Coach Efe Ustundag said the team took more chances while playing against TCU.
“We played a very good game against TCU, which is a team that plays very well at home,” Ustundag said. “We had chances to win a couple of matches or extend matches but didn’t play well in key moments. Against SMU it was the opposite; we rose to the occasion and played well in the moments that mattered.”
Ustandag said the prospect of qualifying for the NCAA tournament makes these final deciding matches exhilarating.
“It absolutely causes my heart to beat a little faster knowing we are that much closer to the NCAA tournament,” Ustundag said. “Every match is nerve-wracking but, at the same time, it is that much more satisfying, especially beating a long time rival like SMU.”
The Conference USA tournament will be hosted in Tulsa, Okla. and begins on Thursday, April 17.
Warren said the team has grown immensely over the course of the season and is excited to see the outcomes of future seasons.
“This season was an incredible experience,” Warren said. “I think the team has really matured since the beginning, and I am very excited to see what this team can do as the years go on.”
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