Despite winning only four of their first 11 matches, the Rice women’s tennis team has been on a winning streak recently, having won their fifth straight match. The Owls knocked off the No. 34 College of William and Mary 5-2 on Sunday.
18 years after his final season as an Owl, Lance Berkman has been elected for induction into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. One of eight players inducted this year, Berkman was recognized for his outstanding contributions to Rice baseball and college baseball as a whole.
Rice University’s club women’s ultimate frisbee team, Torque, competed in and won the Houston Antifreeze Tournament this weekend. After winning the Division III national championship last season, Torque hopes the victory in the tournament is the first step in repeating in 2015.Rice placed first in the tournament after posting an undefeated 7-0 record. The other teams represented at the tournament were the University of Texas, Austin, Carleton College, Trinity University, University of Texas, San Antonio, Texas A&M University and Texas State University.On the first day of the tournament, Texas State proved to be the hardest match of the weekend. The game was close throughout, going back and forth between the two sides until Rice won on the deciding point, 7-6. One of the more anticipated matchups for Rice was against the Carleton Eclipse. They were Rice’s opponent last year at the 2014 USA Ultimate Division III College Championship, in which Rice defeated Carleton 15-9. During this match, Rice was able to close the gap with a score of 11-5. On the second day, Rice played Texas State in the finals. Although the game remained tight until halftime with Rice leading 6-4, Rice gained momentum and shut out Texas State in the second half to beat them 13-4.Senior captain and handler Nichole Kwee said the team’s improvement on defense during the second half led to the team’s victory in the championship round.“We used halftime to really refocus,” Kwee, a Baker College senior, said. “We made adjustments to have smart matchups on their key players and shut down their deep game. The whole team really stepped it up on defense.”The team hopes to continue with their dominant play and hopefully repeat at this year’s College Championships as well.According to senior deep Erika Danckers, the team’s season goal is to perform to the best of their ability, even if it means not repeating as champions.“I think there’s a lot of success that can’t be defined by winning or losing at a tournament,” Danckers, a Hanszen College senior, said. “My goal for the team this season is to reach our full potential as a group and really learn to play well with each other.”Danckers said she hopes to see the team improve over the next few years and possibly advance to higher levels of competition.“I hope to see our program continue to grow in size and increase our level of play,” Danckers said. “It’d be amazing if in five to 10 years from now we can support multiple teams that are competitive at both the [Division I] and [Division III] level.”
Following a 5-2 home victory over Houston Baptist University on Feb. 17, the Rice University baseball team traveled to Tucson, AZ to face the University of Arizona. Rice won both the Friday and Sunday games, giving them the series victory and improving Rice’s record to 5-3.Junior pitcher Kevin McCanna started Friday night, pitching 6.0 innings and allowing three runs on four hits. The Owls’ offense connected for fourteen hits and drove in eight runs. Rice senior duo of Ford Stainback and John Williamson led the charge offensively. The two combined for five hits and three RBIs on the afternoon. Owls junior closer Matt Ditman came into the eighth inning with the bases loaded in an 8-5 ballgame and secured a crucial two-out strikeout. He went on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning to clinch the victory by the same score and grant McCanna his first victory of the season.Saturday’s matchup featured a similar start to Friday’s game when the Owls scored two runs on a bases-loaded single by junior Connor Teykl in the top of the first inning. The Owls later tacked on one more run in the third inning off an error to take a 3-0 advantage. With a 6-5 lead headed into the ninth inning, the Owls committed four errors in the inning and conceded a steal of home plate to lose 7-6. On Sunday, back-to-back doubles by Stainback and junior shortstop Leon Byrd helped manufacture two runs for Rice in the first inning for the third straight game. In the seventh inning, a costly error by senior catcher John Clay Reeves allowed the tying run to score, and the game was even at 4-4 through seven innings. In the top of the 10th inning, freshman Ryan Chandler hit a leadoff double and scored after a throwing error by Arizona at third base. Reeves added an insurance run in the inning, giving Rice a 6-4 lead. Junior Austin Orewiler earned the win for the Owls, shutting down the Wildcat offense for the final 3.1 innings, allowing one hit and walking zero batters.Despite the loss in Saturday’s game, assistant coach Pat Hallmark said the Arizona series was important for Rice’s ranking.“[Road wins are] the best kinds of wins you can get,” Hallmark said. “Anytime you can go on the road and win a series it’s a huge boost in terms of where our RPI will be. We understand that it’s just one weekend … but it was a major boost for the team.”Hallmark said the team’s habit of trying to do too much led to the 10 errors over the weekend.“On defense, we need to play more relaxed and a bit more confident,” Hallmark said. “We know physical errors are part of the game, and we have to forget [them] as soon as they happen. They do not come from a lack of talent, because I feel we are super talented at every position.”Rice totaled 43 hits in the series, keeping the streak of averaging double-digit hits to start the season. Williamson said having a complete lineup that can drive the ball is a huge advantage for the Owls. “Hitting is contagious and … having a stacked lineup from start to finish is huge for us,” Williamson said. “If we ... get people in scoring position and execute the way we are taught to, we have been hitting the ball real well and driving guys in.”As a senior, Williamson said this team has the best team chemistry he’s seen.“We’ve faced some adversity in terms of having close games,” Williamson said. “That is really going to pay dividends in the postseason.” The Owls host Stephen F. Austin University on Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m. before hosting a four-game series this upcoming weekend at home against Stanford University. First pitch is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.
After splitting a pair of road games in South Florida this weekend against Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, the men’s basketball team are in second place in the West Division of Conference USA. After starting the season 6-15, the Owls have won four of their last five, improving their record to 10-6 overall and 7-7 in conference play.Despite getting outscored on the bench 0-14, FIU ended Rice’s three-game winning streak by defeating the Owls 60-56. The Owls, however, rebounded to defeat Florida Atlantic 76-69 to give the team its 10th win of the year. Against FIU, the Owls found themselves down 10 late in the game, but came back to lead by four points with two minutes remaining. FIU, however, was able to come back and secure the victory with two late three-pointers.Head Coach Mike Rhoades said inconsistency on defense and unnecessary fouls ultimately led to the team’s loss.“We weren’t consistent on defense today and we didn’t get stops,” Rhoades said. “You’ve got to go earn a victory, and we didn’t do that today. We can’t have our guys that play a lot of minutes picking up silly fouls. Our bench is getting better, and we’ve seen that over the last couple weeks.”Senior forward Seth Gearhart, who was named Conference USA’s Player of the Week, had his second straight double-double against FIU with 13 points and 11 rebounds, matching his career-high in rebounds. Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson contributed 10 points and junior guard Max Guercy had five assists against FIU.Going into halftime against FAU, the Owls held a 39-32 advantage, a lead they maintained for the remainder of the game. Guercy scored a career-high 25 points on 69 percent shooting from the field, adding six assists. Gearhart scored 24 points and also shot 4-6 from behind the three-point line.Rhoades said he was proud of the way the team, especially Guercy, performed against FAU. Rhoades said he was especially excited after the win brought Rice to .500 in conference play. “I’m really excited we found a way to gut it out,” Rhoades said. “I was really proud of our guys the way we handled the last few minutes. On the road, sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, and tonight was ugly, but we’ll take it. I know [Guercy] had a couple turnovers late, but he played a great game. He really brought us some energy, and it went a long way.”The Owls have two home games this week on Thursday, Feb. 26 against Old Dominion University, and on Saturday, Feb. 28 against the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The tipoffs for both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Under the lights of Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee, the Rice University women’s swimming team competed in the Conference USA championships Feb. 18-21. Aiming for their third straight title victory, the Owls fell short to Florida International University, who won their first C-USA title. Florida International finished with 765 points, followed by Rice with 661.5. Western Kentucky University placed third with 645, followed by Marshall University, North Texas University, Florida Atlantic University and Old Dominion University. Rice Head Coach Seth Huston said his team improved from last year’s championship, but simply could not keep up with FIU’s team this year. “Florida International really had a great team this year,” Huston said. “They just had a lot of firepower. I thought we swam awesome, and in a lot of ways better than last year, but it just wasn’t good enough.” In the 200 medley relay, the first event of the meet, Rice began with a first place finish and new school record in 1:38.11, only .61 seconds faster than the second-place Western Kentucky relay. The next morning, after Thursday’s prelims session, the relay swam a time trial to attempt to get an NCAA “A Cut” and automatically qualify for the National Championship Meet. The same group of four broke the same record they had set the night before, and clocked in at 1:37.04. The relay qualified for the first time since 2001. Huston said the victory was significant for Rice’s swimming legacy. “We’ve had some individuals go [to NCAAs] over the years, but not relays,” Huston said. “For a small or mid-major school, it is pretty hard to have four high-end swimmers get together and qualify for NCAAs. Not too many schools this size achieve that.” Individually, several Owls swam career bests. Senior Casey Clark broke her own school record to win her third straight individual title, swimming the 100-yard butterfly in 51.93 seconds. The time automatically qualified her for the NCAA Championship meet. Her fellow senior teammate, Erin Flanigan, also won her third consecutive individual title. Flanigan won the mile, or 1650, freestyle. Huston said senior Madison Livingston performed better than ever before. She finished sixth in the 400-yard individual medley (4:21.27), fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.92) and seventh in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:16.72) “I was really happy with Madison Livingston,” Huston said. “She had the best meet of her career.” Several underclassmen also contributed to the Owls’ second-place finish. Freshmen Alicia Caldwell and Kiley Beall highlighted the strong performance of the freshman class in the meet. Caldwell’s highest finish was second in the 100 backstroke (53.48). She was also fourth in the 100 freestyle (50.07) and sixth in the 50 freestyle (23.06). Beall also reached the finals in all three of her events, including a school record in the 200 backstroke (1:57.39). According to Huston, Caldwell and Beall deserved special recognition. “Alicia Caldwell was just really good,” Huston said. “Every time [Beall] got in the water, she seemed to get faster.” This year, the Owls performed well in a group of relays — especially the 200- and 400-yard medley relays, which consist of all four strokes. Alicia Caldwell swam the backstroke leadoff leg; Rachel Moody then swam the second breaststroke leg followed by Casey Clark swimming butterfly. Marissa Konicke anchored the relays with her freestyle swim. The 400 medley relay was disqualified due to an early start in the backstroke-to-breaststroke transition. By diving in .07 seconds early, Conference USA automatically disqualified the relay and the Owls lost 40 points. Huston said the 40-point loss was unfortunate, but did not take away from the Owls’ performance. “From an emotional standpoint, it was definitely a bummer, but I think we moved on real quick,” Huston said. “You can’t take away how absolutely incredible they swam, and we weren’t going to let a 0.07 of a second early departure ruin what was otherwise one of our best sessions. So the next day we came back and were just as good or better.” The Owls also competed without a diving team, which cost the team points. Florida International accumulated 79 points from the diving competition. The Owls plan to continue swimming in postseason meets. Much of the team will be swimming next weekend in a time trial meet to attempt to make qualifying cuts for meets such as the NCAA Championships. Usually, the top 36 swimmers in the country make the NCAA Championships in individual events. Swimmers such as Moody and Flanigan are looking to swim well next week to join Clark in the individual events. Following the NCAA Championships and the CSCAA National Invitational Meets, both of which will be held in late March, the team will look to rebuild after losing its senior class. However, the freshman class, which scored approximately a third of the Owls’ points at the meet, looks to continue Rice’s recent history of success. Huston said the loss of seniors will hurt the team, but the future is in good hands. “We graduate almost half of our points,” Huston said. “Even though we have our work cut out for us, I feel really good about the swimmers coming back and the passionate commitment that they bring. I’m not worried.”
Rice University men’s basketball needed two consecutive double-overtime wins to extend their winning streak to three games, their longest since December 2011.Rice played two games this week against Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The Owls won both to move to 9-15 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The Owls have now won two more games this season than all of last year.Although Rice held a nine-point lead going into the second half against MTSU, the game went to overtime tied 53-53. The Owls led by three near the end of the first overtime, but a free throw and putback layup from MTSU tied the game again at 66 apiece. Rice then held MTSU to two points in the final period of overtime to take a 71-68 victory. Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson had a game-high 24 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and also connected on three of his six three-point attempts. Junior guard Max Guercy also contributed 16 points and five steals. Despite the Owls’ difficulty maintaining leads, Rhoades said he was satisfied with the way the team remained focused and determined to win the game through both overtime periods.“Our guys were smiling in the huddle after regulation and they were ready to move on,” Rhoades said. “We always talk about moving forward and making the next play. Today was a great example of that.”Against UAB, senior forward Seth Gearhart tied the game with 26 seconds left at 59-59. The Owls trailed by as many as seven during the first period of overtime, but came back to take the lead with 13 seconds remaining. UAB then hit a free throw to tie the game again at 71. In the second overtime, Rice never looked back and outscored UAB 11-2 to win the game 82-73.Gearhart, who scored a career-high 31 points last week, had 10 rebounds and another career-high 32 points against UAB. Gearhart shot eight for 11 from the field and went four-for-five from behind the three-point line. Guercy scored 21 points and contributed 10 assists for his first career double-double. Head Coach Mike Rhoades said while he was happy Rice pulled out the victory, the team needs to learn how to playwith the lead.“We were playing pretty well and we had a lead, but we were playing not to lose,” Rhoades said. “You can’t play like that in college basketball. We haven’t had many leads like that, and late in the game we’ve got to get better.”According to Rhoades, the UAB game was an intense matchup that demonstrated the tenacity of his team.“Both teams played so darn hard; there was a lot of emotion out there,” Rhoades said. “I’m so proud of our guys and how we fought and kept fighting. I’m just really proud of the guys’ effort and their approach — that was a lot of fun.”Gearhart was named Conference USA Player of the Week after averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in an average of 41.5 minutes of action. Gearhart currently leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game, including a 40.6 three-point percentage.The Owls embark on a two-game road trip against Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University before returning home to face Old Dominion University on Thursday, Feb. 26.