Haet serves up Orlando magic
In their first match action of the 2019 season, the Rice women’s tennis team completed the Orlando Invitational this past weekend with a record of 16-16, including 12 wins and eight losses in singles matches.
In singles play, the Owls were led by sophomore Michaela Haet, who finished the weekend with an unbeaten record, culminating with a win in three sets against the University of Kansas’ Malkia Ngounoue. Head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said she attributed Haet’s strong performance to her work ethic.
“She’s an extremely hard worker and it was great to see the fruits of her labor come through,” Schmidt said.
At the invitational, the Owls faced two opponents in the top 25: No. 16-ranked Kansas and No. 18-ranked Texas Tech University, according to the preseason Oracle Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I poll. Rice also faced North Carolina State University, which received several preseason top-25 votes but not enough to secure a ranking.
During the first day of play, the Owls took three victories in singles play and conceded three losses. Haet and Rice’s freshmen twins from Belgium, Victoria and Anastasia Smirnova, won both of their singles matches on the day. In doubles play on Friday, the Owls finished with zero wins, losing all four doubles matches.
Haet highlighted Saturday by notching her second consecutive win over a nationally ranked singles opponent, defeating No. 23-ranked Anna Rogers of North Carolina State in straight sets. The Owls added another weekend win when No.111-ranked Alana Smith of NC State fell to Victoria Smirnova in a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 match. On Saturday, three other Owls had victories against Wolfpack opponents as Anastasia Smirnova, Niezgoda and sophomore Linda Huang won.
As Saturday was more victorious for the Owls than Friday, Schmidt said she was impressed with the team’s ability to bounce back from some early losses.
“We had some moments as a group where we struggled early, but we found a way to fight through and turn some matches around,” Schmidt said.
Doubles play on Saturday proved to be better for the Owls, as they finished with two wins and two losses. Niezgoda and Anastasia Smirnova won convincingly with a 6-0 win against a doubles pair from Texas Tech. Sophomore Anna Bowtell and senior Fernanda Astete also secured a doubles victory.
Those two teams would also win on Sunday against doubles pairs from North Carolina State. Overall, Rice was 4-8 in doubles matches.
The Owls’ first home match of 2019 will be a dual match against Lamar University on Friday at 2 p.m. Then, Rice travels to Waco, Texas to take on Baylor University. The Owls will face the Bears on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. According to Schmidt, this team is looking forward to this week’s tough schedule.
“It’s a heavy load week for us,” Schmidt said. “But we are really excited about the challenges ahead of us.”
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