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Men’s and Women’s tennis both go 2-0 over weekend

By Pavithr Goli     4/2/24 11:39pm

Both Rice tennis teams entered this week ranked. The men are the 51st-best team in the nation and the women are the 68th-best team in the nation as ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

The men’s team swept Presbyterian College 4-0 on Saturday, March 30, and defeated No. 70 University of North Carolina at Charlotte 4-3 the next day to push their overall record to 12-6. Playing both games on the road in Charlotte, the Owls extended their win streak to eight, their second-longest streak in team history. Following their victory against the 49ers on Sunday, head coach Efe Ustundag was proud of this team’s effort against a ranked opponent.

“What a great battle against a gritty Charlotte team on the road,” Ustundag said. “We had a lot of momentum after the doubles and winning four first sets. But [Charlotte] didn't go away, which is what you'd expect from a well-coached team. I am very proud of our guys for staying focused and physical. Everyone did their part very well.”

The Owls jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on Sunday after defeating the 49ers in the doubles section of the match. Juniors Arthus de la Bassetiere and Eduardo Morais won the first doubles match in a 6-2 victory, while senior Trinity Grear and freshman Petro Kuzmenok won 7-5 on the second court. Using this momentum in the singles, the Owls secured several quick victories to give the Owls a 3-0 lead over the 49ers. However, Charlotte came back as they secured victories at the first, second and sixth positions to tie the match up at 3-3. 

In the match-deciding game, Kuzmenok won the first set 6-4 before losing the second set 6-7 after dropping the tiebreaker. Tied a game each, Kuzmenok used a late rally to secure a 6-4 victory to give the Owls the win.

“My opponent played very well in our match, and we had a long three-hour battle,” Kuzmenok said. “I was also able to raise my level at times to match his, even late into the third set, when we’d already been on the court for a while. Even though I was pretty tired, I found the energy and mental strength to keep fighting until the end.”

In the previous day’s game against Presbyterian College, the Owls came out to a 1-0 advantage after quickly winning their doubles matches against the Blue Hoses. The Owls continued this momentum into the singles matches, as they defeated Presbyterian in three straight-set victories.

The women’s tennis team won both of their games this past weekend, defeating the University of North Texas 4-2 on Friday, March 29, and knocking off No. 42 Charlotte on Sunday, March 31. The women’s team is now 4-1 against conference competition and 8-8 overall. 

“The team played solid, tough tennis this weekend,” Schmidt said. “We started fast in both matches, winning the doubles point and getting out to several quick leads in singles. When our opponents made late pushes, we did a good job as a team staying focused and that helped us close both matches out.”

In their first game of the weekend against the Mean Green, the Owls won the doubles section of the match to gain a 1-0 lead. Graduate senior Chie Kezuka and senior Federica Trevisan won 6-4 at the first position while freshmen Divna Ratkovic and Anushka Ashar won 7-5 in the third spot to clinch the Owls’ doubles victory. The Mean Green, though, came back after winning the single games at both the third and sixth positions to give them a 2-1 lead. 

At the first position, Trevisan won in a straight-set victory and junior Saara Orav won in straight sets at the fifth spot to give the Owls the lead back with a 3-2 advantage over the Mean Green. Sophomore Darya Schwartzman secured the Owls victory after winning her singles match in the third set.

“I was glad that when our team faced a little pressure and got down on a couple of courts, we stepped up and got it done,” Schmidt said. “In singles, we got off to a fast start. And credit to North Texas for digging back in during the second sets and fighting really hard. I'm pleased with the way we stepped up as a team in the end.”

The Owls used this momentum later in the weekend when they defeated Charlotte, the 42nd-best team in the nation. Once again, the Owls claimed their doubles point when Trevisan and Kezuka won 6-4, while Orav and Schwartzman won 6-3 to give the Owls a 1-0 lead. In the singles matches, Kezuka and freshman Divna Ratkovic both recorded straight-set wins to put Rice up 3-0 against the 49ers. Charlotte fought back after winning at both the second and sixth spots, cutting Rice’s advantage down to 3-2, but Trevisan, at the first spot, defeated her opponent in three sets to clinch the victory for the Owls.

The women’s team will travel to Florida later this week to play a slate of top-ranked opponents in No. 29 Florida International University on Friday, No. 51 University of South Florida on Saturday and No. 58 Florida Atlantic University on Monday. The men’s team will travel to San Antonio to take on the University of Texas at San Antonio this Saturday.

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