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Ups and downs: Men's and women's tennis in brief

By Michael Price     1/30/18 11:52pm

Men’s tennis in brief

It was an up-and-down week for Rice’s men’s tennis team. Though the Owls were unable to defeat the University of Louisiana, Lafayette last Sunday, losing a 4-2 decision, they were able to bounce back and beat Lamar University handily, winning 4-2.

In their match against UL Lafayette, the men’s team fell behind early, allowing the Ragin’ Cajuns to take a 1-0 lead after losing two out of the three doubles matches. Despite redshirt sophomore Eric Rutledge and freshman Conrad Russell’s victories in singles, the Owls were unable to recover: The Owls lost three other single matches, securing the Ragin’ Cajuns’ victory.

According to head coach Efe Ustundag, the Owls have allowed their emotions to get the better of them in recent play.

“I think we are pressing at times and that is causing us to play outside our strengths,” Ustundag said. “We are trying to make things happen and when [they don’t], we haven’t handled the frustration from that very well.”

However, the Owls were able to get their record back to .500 with a victory over Lamar University. Unlike the previous week, this time the Owls took a 1-0 lead, winning two of their three doubles matches. They never looked back, as Rutledge, Russell, freshman Mohamed Abdel-Aziz and freshman Jacob Eskeland all won their singles matches, securing the Owls’ 5-2 victory.

Ustundag said he was more pleased with his team’s play this week than against UL Lafayette. “I felt like it was a good week of practice and I think everybody played a little bit better than they did last week,” Ustundag said. “We really didn’t play too many loose games. Guys that got the lead got off the court quickly.”

The men’s team will face the Louisiana State University Tigers this Sunday at the George R. Brown Tennis Center at 12 p.m.

Women’s tennis in brief

The women’s team also bounced back from an early loss as they competed at the ITA Kickoff Weekend tournament in Malibu, California, alongside many of the best women’s tennis teams in the nation. The Owls lost to the University of Oregon 4-2, but later defeated the University of Maryland 4-0.

The women’s team started off strong against the University of Oregon. The No. 12 ranked doubles team of seniors Lindsey Hodge and Wendy Zhang and the pairing of freshman Anna Bowtell and sophomore Priya Niezgoda won their matches to take a 1-0 lead. However, they were unable to continue their momentum into the singles matches, with Hodge being the only Owl to snatch a victory. Ultimately, they lost to the Ducks 4-2.

“Conditions were tough out there and I thought in doubles we did a nice job handling the situation,” head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. “In singles, we just weren’t able to consistently put up enough resistance, some of that due to us getting in our own way and some due to Oregon finding a way to get the job done.”

However, the Owls brushed off the loss with a strong performance the next day, defeating the University of Maryland 4-0. All three of the doubles teams pulled out victories, allowing the Owls to take a 1-0 lead. Zhang, Bowtell and senior Savannah Durkin each won their singles games in two sets, and secured the four wins needed for victory.

Schmidt said that she was proud of how the Owls played and that she is optimistic about the rest of the season.

“Our team did a very nice job bouncing back today,” Schmidt said. “They definitely took yesterday’s loss and learned from it. I’m encouraged by where we are headed and looking forward to getting back out on the practice court to continue to improve.”

The women’s team is on the road again, and will play University of Texas, Arlington on their courts on Feb. 9.

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