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Women’s tennis bounced by reigning champion ODU in C-USA semis


Courtesy Conference USA

By Reed Myers     4/26/22 9:54pm

After winning their first two matches of the Conference USA tournament, the No. 57 Rice women’s tennis team was knocked out in the semifinals by Old Dominion University, the top-seeded team in the conference and No. 33 nationally, losing 4-0. According to head coach Elizabeth Schmidt, while it was disappointing not to win it all, she said she knows her team will come back with a championship-driven mindset next year.

“Disappointing that we were not able to win the tournament, but credit to ODU [as] they played a solid match across the board from start to finish,” Schmidt said. “I know our returners will be hungry and ready to work to bring the title back to Rice next year.”

The Owls came into the postseason tournament as the No. 4 seed, which led them to be matched up with the No. 13seed, the University of Texas, San Antonio, in the opening round. The Owls made quick work of the Roadrunners as they cruised to a 4-0 victory. 

The Owls jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, taking the doubles point from the Roadrunners before freshman Allison Zipoli, senior Anastasia Smirnova and freshman Saara Orav claimed the first three singles points to give the Owls their 4-0 victory. 

Rice’s quarterfinals match featured No. 69 and No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic University, a team that battled the Owls down to the wire in late January. 

However, this time, the Owls were in cruise control as they won the doubles point and then took three straight singles points as senior Anna Bowtell, junior Maria Budin and Zipoli all won their respective matches 2-0. According to Schmidt, knowing the difficulty of their opponent based on their past match, she was pleased with how her team competed. 

“I thought we played a solid team match in the quarterfinals against FAU,” Schmidt said. “We had gone 4-3 with them earlier in the season, so knew we would be in for a battle, and I thought our team as a whole competed really well in that match.”

This win earned the Owls a spot in the semifinals where they faced the top-seeded Monarchs. ODU broke the Owls six-match streak of winning the doubles point as the Monarchs to open the match. Following the doubles point, the Owls then dropped the first three singles points, giving the Monarchs a 4-0 victory to move on to the championship. According to Schmidt, she and her staff are already thinking about what can be done to improve her team for next season. 

“We have already started to reflect on what went well and what needs to improve as we head into next season,” Schmidt said. “We feel we were capable of going further in the postseason than we did this year, and our staff will be working tirelessly to build on the lessons of this year as we continue to grow and improve.” 

The Owls finished their season with a 15-8 record, which included going 4-1 against conference opponents. 

While this concludes the season for many of the Owls, Schmidt said there is a good chance that the doubles pairing of senior Diae El Jardi and Budin, who are currently ranked No. 16 in doubles, will continue with their doubles season in the NCAA postseason. According to Schmidt, this would be an opportunity for the doubles pairing to represent their team and university on the national stage. 

“I think there is a high chance [El Jardi] and [Budin] will make the NCAA doubles tournament, and that means a ton,” Schmidt said. “Not only does it mean a lot for them personally, but it means a lot for our university and our program to have Rice represented in the National tournament. A lot of hard work and growth has gone into them achieving the ranking that has put them in a position to represent Rice at NCAAs, and we are excited for them to continue their postseason journey and compete for a national title.” 

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