Men’s tennis drops third straight
The Rice men’s tennis team’s weekend road trip to Tennessee resulted in two losses, to Middle Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University.
Rice started off the trip with a match against MTSU on Friday, facing a Blue Raider team that had three team wins and five losses in 2019 entering Friday’s match. The Owls dropped two of three doubles matches, with senior Daniel Warren and sophomore Jacob Eskeland earning the lone victory in doubles. In singles, the Owls totaled three wins and three losses. Sophomore Sumit Sarkar and redshirt junior Eric Rutledge won both of their matches in straight sets. Freshman Adam Oscislawski found himself facing multiple set points, but eventually secured the victory in three sets. However, the Owls’ loss to the Blue Raiders was secured when freshman Campbell Salmon fell in a three-set contest, giving Middle Tennessee its third win against the Owls in the last two years.
On Sunday, the Owls traveled to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. The doubles pair of Eskeland and Warren was not able to repeat its doubles performance from Friday as the duo narrowly fell after forcing a tiebreaker. Oscislawski and Rutledge also fell in their doubles match, without winning a single game. However, sophomore Conrad Russell and Sarkar picked up the team in doubles play, securing a 6-4 victory. Eskeland secured the lone victory for the Owls in singles play by winning in straight sets. The Owls dropped all other matches in singles play, including a third-set tiebreaker loss by Sarkar.
Head coach Efe Ustundag said he was impressed with both Eskeland’s and Sarkar’s performance, even though Sarkar narrowly lost.
“Jacob took care of business but Sumit [had] a tough call go against him in his tiebreak,” Ustundag said. “It was the difference from going up 6-3 and having three set points to being 5-4.”
Ustundag said he attributed the recent losses to a lack of team-wide consistency.
“We’ve yet to have a match where we’ve had it going on all six courts,” Ustundag said. “But when it does, I think we have a chance to be a special team.”
The Owls will look to improve their consistency across all six courts as they head to Montgomery, Alabama on Feb. 22 and 23 to play in the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic.
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In the season finale, Rice football defeated the University of Texas, El Paso 30-16, outscoring the Miners 16-0 in the second half en route to their third consecutive victory on Saturday. The victory in Rice’s season finale improved the Owls’ final record to 3-9, a one-win increase over last year’s total and tied for Rice’s best finish since 2016.
As the semester wraps up, it’s a good time to take stock of how Rice Athletics is doing as a whole. At this moment, we believe that there is good reason to be happy and optimistic with how the Owls are performing now and will perform in the future. On a sport by sport basis, Rice sports teams are ending the decade at a peak.
Volleyball will compete in the NCAA tournament after receiving an at-large bid to play against the University of Oklahoma in the first round during Sunday night’s Selection Show. Transportation will not be provided for Rice students to the match against OU, but the possibility exists a student bus will travel to College Station on Friday if the Owls win their first round match, according to Rice director of marketing David Pillen.