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Friday, March 24, 2023 — Houston, TX

Women’s tennis narrowly avoids sweep against No. 10 UT

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Diego Palos Rodriguez     3/7/23 11:02pm

The Rice women’s tennis team fell 6-1 on Saturday afternoon to the two-time defending national champion No. 10 University of Texas at Austin. The sky was clear and the sun was scorching at the George R. Brown Tennis Center where the Owls faced off against their second top-25 opponent in the last month. Despite being swept by now-No. 7 Texas A&M University, the Owls were on a three-match winning streak heading into Saturday’s bout with the Longhorns. According to head coach Elizabeth Schmidt, the Owls hoped to build off their recent form and get a win at home. 

“We go out expecting to win and expecting to get better so we wanted to go out there and compete hard and win the match,” Schmidt said. “[We] wanted to continue to build on the fight that our team showed last match, continue to build on the doubles that we’ve been practicing quite a bit on.”

Two of the three doubles matches finished swiftly for both teams. Sophomore Allison Zipoli and fifth-year Diae El Jardi were the first to drop, losing their match 6-2 on the first court. On the third court, however, sophomore Saara Orav and freshman Darya Schwartzman won their set 6-2. The final match for the team doubles point was left at the hands of junior Federica Trevisan and senior Maria Budin. All eyes went to the middle court, where the Owls started with a 3-1 game lead, but eventually fell behind 5-4. After a long rally for the last point in the game, the Longhorns took the set 6-4 and the doubles point. Despite losing out on the doubles point, Schwartzman explained that their doubles match win gave the team some momentum heading into the singles matches.

“I felt that we can actually do it,” Schwartzman said. “Saara [Orav] and I supported each other and even when things didn’t go as we wanted, we knew that we had another ball and another ball and that we could do it.”

Most of the singles matches were quickly taken by the Longhorns. Courts one, three, four and five were all dropped by the Owls in straight sets, giving the Longhorns a 5-0 lead in overall points. Courts two and six saw doubles returners Trevisan and Schwartzman, respectively, battling until the third set to try to avoid the sweep. Trevisan won her first set against No. 70 Charlotte Chavatipon with a winded 7-5, but dropped the second set 6-2. They opted for a first-to-ten superset, which the Longhorns won despite an early Trevisan 7-5 lead.

Schwartzman dominated her first set 6-2, but dropped her second 6-1, leaving a crucial last set for Schwartzman and the Owls for any chance at an overall point for the day. Heading into this last set, she said that she knew what she had to change to turn her luck around. 

“I knew that I had to start playing my tennis again,” Schwartzman said. “During the second set, I went much further from the baseline, and I had to attack. My tennis is an attacking style and I just knew that if I wanted to win, I had to put one more ball and make her move and I just knew that I’m going to stand where I have to stand.” 

Schwartzman went on to win the set 6-4, bringing the overall point tally to 6-1. According to Schmidt, the Longhorns showed why they are considered one of the best teams in the nation.

“I think you probably saw why they were the two-time defending national [champions],” Schmidt said. “I saw some quality play [from us]. We just need to do it a little bit more consistently throughout the whole match.”

The Owls return to action on Wednesday, March 15 taking on Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi back at home. 

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