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Mr. Tolpadi’s piece entitled “Told by Tolpadi: After football’s brutal start, it is time for Bailiff to go” is arguably the most cogent argument I have seen to date for the firing of David Bailiff as head football coach of Rice University. As Tolpadi accurately notes, this year’s edition of the football Owls appears to be even worse and more undisciplined than last year’s squad (both from a talent and coaching standpoint) and is one of only four teams out of the 128-team Football Bowl Subdivision that has yet to record a win this season. With likely unwinnable road games against Stanford University and Louisiana Tech University remaining, it appears as if the football team is destined for another 5-7 — or, more likely, worse — campaign. This is unacceptable at a university which Edgar Odell Lovett wished to be “of the highest grade.”
Before Thursday night's game at Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston, many Owls' fans were taking a page out of Governor Rick Perry's book and praying for a sudden deluge of rain that would surely help ground the Houston air attack. Apparently only part of the prayer was heard as heavy rain lasted for a just a quarter-and so did the Owls' grip on the game, as they ended up losing by a score of 73-34.
By glancing at every statistic besides the final score, the casual sports fan would have guessed that the soccer team had walked away from their season-opening match with Texas Tech University (2-0-0) with their first win of the year. The Owls led the Red Raiders in every offensive category from shots, shots on goal, to corner kicks. But the only statistic that mattered at the end of the night was the one beneath the words "Texas Tech" and the zero beneath "Rice" on the scoreboard at the John Walker Soccer Complex. Rice had the upper hand for the first half, outshooting Tech 5-4 and earning four corner kicks compared to the Red Raiders' two.
With the advent of classes on Monday, several new students reading this issue of the Thresher may go to sleep tonight with visions of Dis-O clouded in their heads by the impending CHEM 121 and PHYS 101 pop quizzes given at the start of class. Just kidding … maybe. As a senior who has tried desperately in vain to find substantial blowoff classes at this hallowed institution, let me offer a new addition to your arsenal of Rocks for Jocks and Stars for Stoners courses. It's called Watercooler Talk 101 and not only is it an LPAP that will make Art of Relaxation seem like you're training for a marathon by comparison, it's also a graduation requirement starting this year.
Turn on the tube to ESPN at any point this summer, and even the most apathetic of Rice sports fans would have perked up at the baritone voiceover saying "Rice. Texas. September 3rd, only on the LonghornNetwork." While it's true that the Owl Network may be a farfetched wish, it is also true that the inaugural event on ESPN's Longhorn Network will be the clash between the Owls and No. 22 University of Texas on September 3. In preparation for the Longhorns, who are currently favored by just over three touchdowns, the Owls have been hard at work since they first strapped on the pads on August 10. The team certainly has the returning talent to give Texas a competitive game, as several preseason accolades have found their way to the gridiron gang at Rice Stadium. Senior punter Kyle Martens was named to the C-USA Preseason First Team after being a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2010 for college football's top punter. Junior tight end Luke Willson and junior Corey Frazier were named to Dave Campbell's Texas Football All-Texas College Team.
With the Conference USA Outdoor Championship being held at Rice Track/Holloway Field this past weekend, the men's track team aimed to use this home field advantage to help propel them to a top-three finish at the C-USA Outdoor Championship for the first time since 2008. But the perfect weather and familiar surroundings couldn't give the Owls the 30 extra points needed to surpass the University of Tulsa, as Rice finished fourth for the third straight year. As always, the Owls had strong showings in the decathlon and distance events, but had a few surprises including the shot put and 4x400 meter relay results.
The 66th-ranked Owls had little hope of making the NCAA Tournament via an at-large invite, so the Conference USA Championship would be their only avenue for furthering their season. Given a fourth seed, the women's tennis team enjoyed a first round bye before taking on the University of Central Florida (12-8), the host school. The fifth seeded Knights could not keep up with Rice's well-tuned doubles pairs as sophomore Daniella Trigo and senior Jessica Jackson started off the competition with an 8-3 victory. Senior Rebekka Hanle and junior Ana Guzman finished their match next by a score of 8-4 to give Rice the doubles point. Jackson and Guzman increased the Owls' lead to 3-0 before freshman Dominique Harmath finished of UCF's Alexis Rodriguez in two quick sets to clinch the victory for Rice. All in all, it was a perfect match for the Owls, who failed to drop a set during the entire quarterfinal matchup.
In a season that has seen a variety of up-and-down performances over the last month and a half, the women's tennis team saved their best victory for last, defeating the University of Louisville (11-10) by a margin of 7-0, winning all matches in the process. Seniors Rebekka Hanle and Jessica Jackson combined to have a hand in two double matches and two singles matches victories, as Hanle and junior Ana Guzman won their match 8-5, while Jackson and sophomore Daniella Trigo won 8-4. The other doubles contest saw junior Alex Rasch and freshman Dominique Harmath cruise to an 8-1 win. With the doubles point in hand, the No. 65 Owls (13-9) lost no time in clinching the match, as Rasch won her match in a quick two sets, losing just four games. Harmath and Jackson followed suit, claiming two-set victories to give Rice a 4-0 advantage over the Cardinals. Freshman Kim Anicete reeled in her team-leading 16th victory of the year, while Guzman and Hanle finished up their matches in three and two sets, respectively. Hanle was fittingly the last Owl to walk off the court, having been the squad's top-seeded player and de facto team leader for this season. Jackson and fellow senior Varsha Shiva-Shankar also left Jake Hess Tennis Stadium for the last time in their careers, having been honored with Hanle before the start of the match. But the story hasn't ended yet for them, as Rice will be seeded fourth for the Conference USA Tennis Championship that started yesterday at the University of Central Florida. Rice will face the winner of the match between fifth-seeded University of Central Florida (11-7) and the 12th-seeded University of Alabama-Birmingham (7-12) at 2 p.m. today.
Despite being one of the top groups on the men's track team last year, this year has been somewhat trying for the pole vaulters, save for Saturday's efforts by freshman Ben Timmer and senior Garrett Stafford, who had their best vaults of the year at the University of Texas-El Paso Invitational. Timmer, who had not cleared the bar in one outdoor meet this season, came through with a fifth-place finish after vaulting 4.66 meters (15' 3.5"), and Stafford turned in a solid performance as well with a 4.51 meter (14' 9.5") vault that gave him sixth place. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) spoke about the meet from the vaulters' standpoint.
With the school year coming to a close, it's time to look at which colleges were victorious in intramural sports this year.
Before the interview even started, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) stated, "Let's talk about [the] UTEP [Invitational]." Clearly Warren's directive nature was not coming from a disappointment at the way the men's track team had performed at the 84th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin and Trinity University's Tiger Relays in San Antonio, but rather because there were just 14 Owls spread among the two meets. Still, junior Lee Johnson's performances in the 110 and 400 meter hurdles at the Tiger Relays were something to talk about. Johnson took first place in the 110 meter hurdles with a season-best time of 14.95 seconds, currently the eighth-best time by any Conference USA runner. Additionally, Johnson's time of 55.89 seconds was good for second place in the 400 meter hurdles. Warren was pleased at the way several different athletes have stepped up each weekend.
With their time as members of the women's tennis team drawing to a close, seniors Rebekka Hanle and Jessica Jackson clearly took advantage of their last match against the University of Southern Mississippi (7-11), as they combined for two doubles and two singles victories in the Owls 6-1 win over the Golden Eagles.
With just a handful of events left in their outdoor track careers, seniors Michael Trejo and Connor Hayes wasted no time in continuing to update their personal record books at the Stephen F. Austin Alumni Invitational in Nacogdoches, Texas on Saturday. After a personal best time in the 1,500 meter run at the Texas Southern University Relays of 3:57.02, Trejo dropped his time down by nearly three seconds at Fletcher Garner Track, winning the event with a time of 3:54.05.
With the outdoor season merely three weeks old, one could have easily expected some rust on the men's track team at the 29th Victor Lopez Classic held at Holloway Field and Ley Track last Friday and Saturday. But just by glancing at the results from the meet, it's clear that any growing pains didn't bother the Owls. Headlining the efforts of the team was junior Alex Zinchenko's personal best of 17.15 meters (56 feet, 3.25 inches) in the shot put that gave him a third-place finish in the event. After setting a previous best of 16.80 meters (55 feet, 1.5 inches) the week before at the Shirley Crowe Multi-Events, Zinchenko attributed the help of his coaches to allow him to break his own mark just a week later.
After getting their first victory in five matches against Tyler Junior College (16-2) on Mar. 13, it unfortunately didn't take long for the women's tennis team (11-8) to record their eighth loss of the season, as they fell 4-3 to then-unranked Texas Christian University (4-6) on Mar. 20. However, the result of doubles play was not a sign of things to come, as all three matches were won by the Owls, albeit in close fashion, with all three matches decided by less than two points. After freshmen Dominique Harmath and Kim Anicete picked up their 10th and 11th singles wins of the year, respectively, it seemed that Rice had the match nearly won with a 3-0 lead. But the Horned Frogs, who had won 10 straight against the Owls, were not about to concede the match. The remaining matches were all dominated by TCU early, as each of the first sets of the matches were taken by TCU. But each remaining Rice player rallied to force a third set in her match, needing just one more set in one of the matches to defeat their rivals from Fort Worth. But despite their valiant comeback efforts in the single matches, TCU swept all four tiebreaker sets in dominating fashion, winning two of the sets 6-0 and two by a score of 6-1 to pull out the road victory.
With nearly a quarter of the season in the books, many pundits would wave off any sweeping generalizations about what the 9-6 record of the baseball team bodes for their postseason hopes. But while it may be optimistic to ignore such prognostications, it's clear to anyone who has paid a visit to Reckling Park this year that the Owls are still in search of the consistent play that is a hallmark of any Omaha-bound squad. Rice began their slate of spring break games with a series against the University of Southern California on Feb. 25-27. The Owls got off to a quick start with a 10-7 victory on Feb. 25. After USC took a 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, the Rice bats woke up, with the Owls scoring three runs before the Trojans recorded an out. Eleven batters later, the side was finally retired but not before a two-run home run by redshirt sophomore right fielder Ryan Lewis and a two-run single by junior center fielder Jeremy Rathjen had made the score 7-3. While junior pitcher Matthew Reckling was pulled after four innings, a four-hit, four-run combined effort from junior Taylor Wall, redshirt sophomore Andre Benak, and senior Abe Gonzales helped preserve a Rice lead that ballooned to 10-7 after a two-run home run from junior designated hitter Anthony Rendon. Saturday's contest was different in that Rice took a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning, courtesy of a Rendon home run and two one- RBI singles from Rathjen and freshman shortstop Derek Hamilton. The Trojans stormed back in the sixth inning, sending freshman pitcher Austin Kubitza packing after giving up a two-run home run to right field from Alex Sherrod and then hitting a batter with the bases loaded. Still, the bullpen provided some semblance of order for Rice as senior pitcher Tony Cingrani tossed two scoreless innings, giving the Owls time to collect three runs in the eighth inning, ultimately ending in a 6-5 victory for Rice. While the series victory had been clinched, Rice looked to earn the sweep on Sunday with freshman John Simms on the mound. Simms went 5.2 innings, allowing just one run on an inside-the-park home run.
After third- and fourth-place finishes in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the track team took a step back with a sixth place finish during the Conference USA Indoor Championship held at Yeoman Fieldhouse at the University of Houston on Feb. 25-26. While four Owls medaled last year, only two took the podium this year, including junior Dan Sloat, who finished third in the 800-meter run for the second straight year and redshirt sophomore Clayton Chaney, who came up short of his goal of being C-USA champion in the heptathlon. Despite the ultimate decrease in standing amongst their conference peers, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) had a rational explanation for Rice's performance. "We've got two guys that we missed during indoor, [senior] Philip Adam and [redshirt sophomore] Jack Spinks," Warren said. "Philip doesn't have more indoor eligibility, and Jack broke his leg, so we're kind of playing him by ear in terms of getting him back for the majority of the outdoor season. If we have those guys, then we're easily third."
With the desert winds whipping up to nearly 20 miles per hour at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., it seemed that Mother Nature was providing enough competition for the women's tennis team to deal with. Unfortunately for Rice (7-3), the Wildcats and the wind proved to be too much for the team to handle on Saturday, as Arizona (8-2) notched a dominating 6-1 victory over the Owls. The doubles matches were no indicator of the lopsided nature of the match, as Rice and Arizona split the first two matches before the Owls succumbed in the final doubles matchup. Senior Jessica Jackson and sophomore Daniela Trigo provided the only Owls' victory in the doubles round. The singles matches started off well for Rice, as freshman Kimberly Anicete had a quick 6-2, win over Arizona's Jane Huh, bringing the score to 2-1 Wildcat lead. The tide turned in Arizona's favor from there on out, as they tallied two straight two-set victories to clinch the match. The remaining matches were played out, but with no different results for Rice as Sarah Landsman defeated senior Rebekka Hanle in three sets in the top-seeded contest and Susan McRann took out junior Alex Rasch in two sets (6-3, 7-5). Hanle had battled back to win the second set 6-4 after a 6-4 defeat in the first set, but the third set was all Landsman, who made quick work of Hanle by winning the third set 6-0. While Arizona was ranked 59th compared to Rice's ranking of 48th in the nation, the match was not considered an upset due to the unfavorable weather conditions and home-court advantage enjoyed by the Wildcats.
In a technical sense, the 2011 edition of the baseball team has improved over last year's, with a current 2-3 record being preferred to an 0-4 record that the 2010 squad boasted at this point in the season. Still, a tough series defeat to Stanford University (3-1), ranked eighth by Baseball America, and an even more perplexing loss to Lamar University on Tuesday has many Owls fans attempting to make comparisons between the lackluster start of this year's squad and the disastrous first week that the 2010 team had. With Rice starting two freshman pitchers on opening weekend, the casual fan may believe inexperience had much to do with the Owls' mediocre inception in 2011. But the starting pitchers were the highlight of the weekend, allowing just three earned runs in 17 innings of work (1.58 earned run average).Opening day on Feb. 18 began with a masterful first NCAA appearance from freshman pitcher John Simms. The right-hander allowed one run in five innings of work and tallied four strikeouts. Unfortunately for him, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel was equally on point, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings of work, easily reaching 98 mph on the radar gun. With freshman designated hitter Keenan Cook and sophomore first baseman J.T. Chargois providing two RBIs during the bottom of the fifth inning, it appeared that Rice could be in control of its inaugural game of 2011. However, Simms ran into trouble after hitting a batter and allowing a single in the sixth inning, but sophomore right-hander Chase McDowell luckily put out the fire by stranding two runners. The bats didn't produce much for Rice in the bottom half of the inning, but McDowell lost command of his changeup in the seventh inning and allowed four hits and two runs to give Stanford a 3-2 lead.
One thing nearly all college sports fans have an opinion on is conference loyalty: Should you pull for your squad's conference mates in interconference competition, or does it mean nothing? For the men's track team, conference loyalty meant something this weekend, as they competed in the Texas A&M Challenge for the third year in a row, which features three teams from each of Conference USA, the Big 12, the Pac-10 and the Southeastern Conference. This meet combines the scores of the three teams representing each conference in order to determine conference supremacy for that season. While C-USA finished third and the Big 12 dominated, cruising to a 189-point margin of victory, Saturday's meet was not without positives for Rice, which compiled 20 season-best times or marks amongst its competing athletes. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) spoke about what he saw in the competition last week. "Lot of good things happened across the board and we're finding out some things about guys," Warren said. "Our distance events are coming together and the DMR [distance medley relay] guys are doing well."