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Monday, September 21, 2020 — Houston, TX °


SPORTS 2/25/15 10:08am

Women’s club ultimate continues history of success

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.”

SPORTS 2/25/15 10:06am

Baseball takes non-conference series against Arizona in extra innings

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. 

SPORTS 2/25/15 10:05am

Men's basketball splits games in South Florida

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.

SPORTS 2/25/15 10:03am

Swimming finishes second in C-USA Tournament

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.”

SPORTS 2/18/15 4:07pm

Men's basketball extends winning streak to three

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.

SPORTS 2/18/15 4:06pm

The Fifth Quarter: Weekend series shows potential for the Hill to be a lively student section

The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his.Simply referred to as “The Hill,” the grassy elevation behind left field of Reckling Park used to be a staple of student attendance at Rice baseball games. Students would bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets before relaxing for an afternoon or evening watching a ballgame. It’s not that this tradition is dead; in fact, it was reinvigorated on Friday night.On Friday, Feb. 13, Rice baseball held its opening night matchup against the University of Texas. Baseball season was back. Students and alumni flocked to Reckling Park to watch the annual ceremony celebrating the beginning of America’s pastime. 4,755 fans packed Reckling on a beautiful night to watch the matchup from the stands, and many students went to the Hill behind left field to watch the game as a student community.Last season, I don’t remember there being a sizeable event on the Hill. Sure, from time to time you could see a small scattering of fans sitting on the bleachers out there. But on Friday night, we saw the potential this space has. Thanks to the Rally Club’s pre-game tailgate and advertising efforts, a large number of students came out to sit on the Hill, eat, drink and watch our Owls take on the Longhorns.As a student body, we need to re-establish the Hill as a formidable baseball student section. It offers a good sight line from leftfield and allows for some pretty good heckling of the opposing team’s leftfielder. Furthermore, it allows for Rice students to have a common area to sit, converse and root on our nationally-ranked team. Instead of students scattering throughout the stadium, they could come together, enjoy a beer, and watch some baseball.The weather in second semester (a.k.a baseball season) is usually pretty stellar. Baseball is meant to be watched outdoors with friends, a drink in hand and three hours of relaxation with the occasional moment of excitement. People complain all the time about baseball being boring, but those people don’t understand the calming effects of the game. No, baseball isn’t as fast-paced as basketball and doesn’t have the hard-hitting action of football. But baseball is meant to be more than just a game to watch. It’s a social event, a way for people to come together, relax and root on a team. Also, if you’ve ever watched a ninth inning of a game, you understand baseball can be as exciting as any sport out there.This season, come out to Reckling Park and find a nice spot on the Hill. Bring friends, food and some beer (only if you’re over 21 and it’s in a can, of course). It’s unreasonable to think the Hill will ever be as crowded as it was opening night against Texas, but there are 25 home games remaining this season, and there’s no reason we, as a student body, can’t replicate a similar experience at Reckling on a Friday or Saturday night. 

SPORTS 2/18/15 4:05pm

Women's basketball loses fourth straight

The Rice University women’s basketball team fell short to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, 75-59. The loss brought Rice’s record to 7-16 overall and 2-10 in Conference USA.Senior forward Christal Porter led all Rice players with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in the loss. Sophomore forward Jasmine Goodwine also put up 15 points in the losing effort.The Owls averaged a league-leading 43.6 rebounds per game entering the game, but the Blazers outrebounded them 38-35. UAB also shot 56 percent from the field while taking 10 fewer shots than the Owls. The Blazers outscored the Owls 40-26 in the paint.According to Head Coach Greg Williams, Rice’s defensive play was the primary reason for the loss. UAB’s post players went 17-for-25 in the game, and Rice was outscored 26-40 from inside the paint. “Our perimeter defenders also got beat one-on-one off the dribble for several layups, leading to our worst field goal defense of the season,” Williams said.The Owls fought back after being down 34-25 at the half. Rice pulled the game to within six points with 17:28 remaining in the game, but was unable to close the gap. The Blazers went on a 9-0 run to go ahead 51-36. Rice made another run that cut the lead to 10, but UAB made a 8-0 run of its own to make it 62-44 with 9:34 remaining on the clock.Coach Williams said he was happy with some things his team was able to do despite the loss. “We just missed open shots,” Williams said. “We did shoot a few too quickly without enough ball movement … We did hit the offensive boards well.”The Owls and Porter, who will be going for her seventh consecutive double-double, will try to bounce back at Tudor Fieldhouse when they host Florida International University (3-20). FIU is currently riding a 14-game losing streak and has won one game in their past 21 contests. The game will tip off on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.

SPORTS 2/18/15 4:05pm

New podcast covers Rice athletics

The Rice community has a new digital source for Rice athletics news, a podcast dedicated to Rice sports coverage. Duncan College sophomore Jeremy Reiskind and Wiess College senior Trevor Caswell founded the podcast, JR and Caz, this January. The podcast is updated weekly and consists of four segments, including an update on Rice athletics, an interview with a student athlete, a debate between Reiskind and Caswell called “The Struggle” and a preview of upcoming events in Rice Athletics.Reiskind said he and Caswell hatched the idea at the end of last semester.“Last semester, [Caswell] and I really enjoyed talking about Rice Athletics,” Reiskind said. “We thought, ‘why not turn this into something bigger?’Reiskind and Caswell have released four episodes of JR and Caz. The show tackles issues on a large and small scale of collegiate athletics. Reiskind said they interview a new Rice student athlete each week to give listeners an idea of what it’s like to be a Rice student athlete.“We try to give insight into the lives of some of the Rice athletes,” Reiskind said. “We try to bring in an athlete to give insight into Rice Athletics in general, and more specifically on their one sport.”According to Caswell, the pair created the podcast in the hope to improve their communication skills while generating interest for Rice athletics.“This podcast is a way Jeremy and I can improve our communication skills on air,” Caswell said. “We want to highlight Rice sports and its athletes and satisfy our passion for talking sports.”According to Caswell, he hopes that JR and Craz experience will translate into his future career.“I am trying to become a sports information director for a college athletics program,” Caswell said. “I see my radio skills as a way I can eventually positively impact my team.”According to Reiskind, the Rice community benefits form the podcast.“We have heard positive feedback from students who enjoy hearing us speak about Rice athletics especially in this successful time,” Reiskind said. “People also love hearing the interviews with the athletes since it isn’t something that happenseveryday.JR and Caz releases a new podcast weekly on Thursdays. The podcast can be accessed at

SPORTS 2/18/15 4:04pm

Baseball splits weekend series against Texas Longhorns

In a matchup of two of the nation’s top baseball programs, the no. 13 Rice Owls and no. 10 University of Texas, Austin split a four-game series played this past weekend at Reckling Park. Both Rice victories came on the same day as Rice swept the Saturday doubleheader, giving junior pitcher Blake Fox and freshman pitcher Ricardo Salinas their first wins of the season. The Longhorns, who trailed in both Friday’s and Sunday’s games, battled back to claim the two victories. Rice is now 2-2 in the season. The Owls scored first in the bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly by junior shortstop Leon Byrd to take a 1-0 advantage. The Owls’ Friday night starter, Kevin McCanna, struck out six Texas batters through his first four innings of work while allowing zero runs. However, the Owls’ inability to execute with runners in scoring position would come back to hurt them, and Rice did not see another runner cross home plate the rest of the game. Despite out-hitting Texas 10 to five, the Longhorns defeated Rice by a score of 3-1. Looking to even up the series at 1-1, Rice scored six runs on seven hits in the first inning of the first game of the Saturday doubleheader on their way to a 10-9 victory. Senior catcher John Clay Reeves hit his first home run of the season with a two-run shot, and fellow senior second baseman Ford Stainback recorded four hits on the afternoon with two RBIs. Junior pitcher Matt Ditman closed the game, pitching 3.0 innings while striking out seven batters to earn his first save on the year.In game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, true freshman pitcher Ricardo Salinas took the mound for his first career collegiate start. Salinas threw 6.0 scoreless innings while his teammates scored five runs through the first half of the ballgame. Senior left fielder Kirby Taylor led the offense, going 3-4 on the day with 3 RBIs. The Owls won the game 5-2.For the first four innings of the final game, both teams were deadlocked at zero runs, but quickly changed in the fifth when the Owls put three runs on the board. For the second day in a row, the Owls’ starting pitching kept the Longhorns off the board for the first six innings of the game. However, Texas broke through in the seventh inning after a costly error in the outfield allowed two runs. With the game tied at three runs apiece, the two teams headed into extra innings where the Longhorns would go on to win by a score of 4-3 to even up the series. True freshman pitcher Glenn Otto appeared twice in the series and faced a total of eight Longhorn hitters, of which he struck out seven. In total, Rice struck out 17 batters in Sunday’s game. Otto said he felt the pitching staff was prepared all weekend thanks in part to pitching coach Patrick Hallmark. “I think Coach Hallmark did a really good job getting us ready to go out there and compete,” Otto said. “Overall, [our pitchers] had a remarkable opening weekend, and we hope to keep it up all season.” Hitting Coach Clay Van Hook said he was proud of his hitters, who recorded double-digit hit totals in all four contests. He credited aggression and swinging at good pitches for the .343 batting average on the weekend. “Our hitting was successful due to the fact we were aggressive at the plate, and when we got good pitches to hit, we didn’t miss them,” Van Hook said. “Our walk-to-strikeout ratio was very good, meaning we were disciplined enough to handle Texas, who has really good [pitchers].” Taylor led the offense over the weekend, hitting .643 with two doubles and four RBIs. Taylor said he was satisfied with the play of the younger players. “As a senior, I am very satisfied with where we are at … because we could have been 4-0 this weekend if not for a few mistakes we made ourselves,” Taylor said. “Being an older guy, you definitely want to see the younger kids and the freshmen play well and compete, [and] I’m really looking forward to Arizona because they will be another big test for us [as a team].”The Owls travel to Tucson, Arizona this upcoming Friday to play the University of Arizona in a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for Feb. 20 at 4 p.m.

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:12am

The arm: Blake Fox

Rice University baseball’s 2014 NCAA Regional matchup against the University of Texas had just concluded the bottom of the seventh inning. The Owls, holding a 2-1 lead over their rivals at Reckling Park, received a standing ovation from their supporters. Thanks to timely hitting and a dominant start from sophomore left-handed pitcher Blake Fox, Rice was six outs from a crucial victory over their in-state rivals. Fox said the moment was surreal; he described it as the single coolest moment of his career thus far. “It gave me the chills,” Fox said.Though the Owls were unable to win the game, the strong performance they received from Fox was nothing out of the ordinary. As a freshman, Fox finished with a 6-0 record while coming primarily out of the bullpen. As a sophomore, he compiled a 12-0 record with a 1.46 earned run average. His success on the field has earned him a number of accolades. Following his sophomore season, Fox was named a first team All-American by the National College Baseball Writers Association, first team All-Conference USA and Rice Male Athlete of the Year, among several others.Fox made the transition from reliever to starter between his freshman and sophomore years. Typically, such a transition requires considerable strength training to build stamina, as well as an expansion of the pitcher’s repertoire. According to Fox, strength training was a big part of the offseason and the addition of a slider to his repertoire over the summer of his freshman year as necessary for the progression to start.“It’s about having your goals in mind during the season [and] offseason and having the discipline and focus to achieve them,” Fox said.Head Coach Wayne Graham said Fox is a well-rounded pitcher and the ideal Rice player.“We’re always looking for good, reliable players, and that’s exactly what Blake is,” Graham said. “He’s very disciplined on the mound.”According to Fox, the coaches have had a significant impact on his success on the mound.“[The coaches] coach the mental side of the game very well,” Fox said. “They’re really aware of different situations, and that helps us perform better as players.” Through his development, Fox has developed a unique pitching style that has allowed him to enjoy so much success in a short amount of time. His greatest strength, perhaps, is his confidence in each of his four pitches: fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. While most pitchers have one “out pitch” that they will call upon in pressure situations, this is not the case with Fox. According to Fox, he has the confidence in his pitches. Further accentuating this point is the fact Fox pitches to his strengths. While he is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of hitters on the mound, Fox still prefers pitching to his strength rather than a hitter’s weakness in a given situation. Additionally, Fox describes himself as a strike thrower who prefers to go for a direct strikeout, rather than trying to get the hitter to chase.“I throw strikes,” Fox said. “If someone in our infield makes a play or if I strike a guy out, I don’t really care as long as the guy’s out. But if I walk someone, then nobody gets to make a play, and that hurts us.” The ability to throw strikes, as Fox said, is particularly important given an NCAA rule change regarding the baseballs that will be used during games. While balls that were used last year are described as “high-seam” balls, the ones that will be used this year “low-seam.”This upcoming season, Fox will serve the role of “weekend starter” for the Owls. Doing so gives him six days of rest between starts, all of which are necessary to recover from the soreness that results from consistently pitching deep into games. According to Fox, the rest is a critical aspect of being able to pitch at a consistently high level throughout the season.“There definitely is some soreness the day after you pitch, so you spend a lot of the week recovering from that,” Fox said.As for what constitutes this recovery, Fox mentioned long toss, bullpen sessions and running, all of which he uses in addition to typical resting protocols to stay sharp between starts. While six days is longer than most professional pitchers have to recover from starts (typically four days at the Major League level), the pitcher’s responsibility of staying sharp places additional emphasis on the fitness and conditioning training that is typically done during the offseason.As for Fox and the Owls, the goal this year is the same as it always is: win the Conference USA title en route to winning the College World Series in Omaha. The 19-time reigning Conference USA champions begin their season Feb. 13 against Texas in Reckling Park.

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:12am

The bat: John Clay Reeves

John Clay Reeves has finally found a baseball home at Rice University. Coming from Monroe, Louisiana, the Owls’ starting catcher played his first two seasons at the University of Arkansas and Navarro College, respectively, but has finally established himself at Reckling Park.  Last season, his first season as an Owl, was Reeves’s breakthrough year in which he recorded a .317 batting average led the Owls to another conference championship and earned him a collection of individual accolades. He was named the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year in addition to being a second team All-Conference USA honoree.  Reeves played his freshman year at the University of Arkansas, where he helped the Razorbacks reach the College World Series as a true freshman. However, due to a crowded depth chart at catcher, he transferred to Navarro College after the season. According to Reeves, he enjoyed his time at Arkansas but felt he could achieve greater accomplishments at other programs. “Arkansas was a great experience for me my freshman year,” Reeves, a McMurtry College senior, said. “I had some great times and got to learn from a great catching coach, but I was splitting time and it was best for me to move on.” At Navarro, Reeves led his team to the Junior College World Series while posting a .367 batting average. After completing his junior college year, he landed at Rice. Reeves said ending up at Rice was a dream come true. “Not many people want to pass up the opportunity to come to Rice and play for a great coach in Wayne Graham,” Reeves said. “I thank God every day that he gave me the opportunity to be on a team like this.”  After sustaining a hip injury last season, he had surgery on June 26 to begin his rehabilitation. He missed fall baseball practice as part of his five-month recovery process. Reeves said he has been aggressively training to get back into top-tier baseball form since mid-November. “I have been hitting it real hard,” Reeves said. “I have been catching and hitting as much as I can to get ready for the season and handle all these great pitchers that we have. I want to put up some of the same numbers I put up last year and maybe improve since I am healthier this year.” Reeves is focusing on fixing the last season’s mistakes. Despite his all-conference-caliber numbers from last year, he believes there is plenty of room for improvement,  for both himself and the team. Primarily, Reeves said the team needs to do a better job taking each game with the same intensity.  “I want to have a good season, not only for myself but for my teammates,” Reeves said. “We want to take each game one at a time and win the series every weekend.” Head Coach Wayne Graham is also looking forward to another impressive season from Reeves, whom he named Most Valuable Player of the team last year. According to Graham, Reeves has a chance to improve his performance from last season due to his improved health. “He played hurt [last season] and he played well and called a great game,” Graham said. “He has a chance to have a great year. He is just a fine and intelligent player.” In addition to his hitting prowess, with his six home runs and 41 RBIs in 2014, much of Reeves’s contribution to the Owls comes from his job as a game-managing catcher. Reeves said he works closely with the Owls’ top-tier pitching staff and is entrusted by Coach Graham to call the pitches in games. “As a catcher, I want to be able to lead our pitching staff and help call pitches,” Reeves said. “I can’t say enough about this pitching staff. We have so many good pitchers on this team.” This year, Reeves will have some defensive help with junior Hunter Kopycinski ready to take on some of the load at the catcher position. According to Reeves, Kopycinski has shown promise and will be able to fill in for him, if needed. “Toward the end [of last season], I got a little tired,” Reeves said. “This year we have Hunter Kopycinski to share some of the games at catcher. He’s been playing great and had a great fall.” With Kopycinski ready to share the load, Graham said Reeves and Kopycinksi would be splitting games defensively at catcher. When not catching, Reeves will be the team’s designated hitter, replacing the pitcher in the batting lineup. “Reeves will always bat in the lineup,” said Graham. “Kopycinski is hitting better but will not always be in the lineup.” Reeves’s goal is to return to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time since his freshman year at Arkansas, and he said he believes this team has the ability to achieve their objective. “I think this is a great team and a great group of guys,” Reeves said. “This is a team that does have potential to go to Omaha.” Reeves, who is entering his final year of eligibility, said he is looking to play professionally after this year. He said his goal is to continue to play baseball and someday continue working in the field as a coach. “I want to try to play baseball as long as I can like every guy in that locker room,” Reeves said. “Eventually coaching is something that I think I have a lot of passion for. These coaches here have done nothing but great things for me.” Reeves, a sports management major, said he is also thankful for the academic value that his Rice experience has given him. He has been working hard in the classroom to make up for the 30 hours he lost when he transferred. Named to the C-USA All-Academic Team last year, Reeves will walk at graduation, but will be six credits short of a diploma. “Rice does a lot of great things for you other than athletics,” Reeves said. “It is a great school for academics, which is another reason I came here. It has given me the opportunity to have some great internships through our sports management program.” Reeves looks to stay healthy and be on the lineup card for the entire season as he enters his final year as a college athlete, having found a place in which he could excel. “There is no better place to me than Rice,” Reeves said. “It really has been a blessing to have the opportunity to play here and I could not be more thankful.”

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:10am

Perfect Pitch: Baseball goes for 20th straight title

Coming off their 19th consecutive conference championship and 40-win season, Rice will compete to earn their 20th straight trip to the postseason and advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Rice, selected by Conference USA coaches as the unanimous favorite to once again win conference, has not been to Omaha since their three-year run ended in 2008.The 2015 Owls completed a 42-20 season last year (23-7 in Conference USA play) and earned both the regular season and C-USA tournament championships in 2014. With preseason rankings of no. 13 on and no. 15 on Baseball America, many believe the Owls will be able to continue their conference streak.This season, Rice returns a slew of high-profile pitchers, including junior all-conference pitchers Blake Fox and Matt Ditman. Last season, Rice ranked second in C-USA with a 2.56 team ERA, compared with the conference’s average of 3.41. Rice looks to build upon those pitching statistics and allow the pitching staff to lead the team deep into the postseason. Starting Pitchers Fortunately for the Owls, the Rice Owls pitching staff is returning nearly all of their 2014 rotation and is expected to be one of the top programs in the country. Last season, right-handed pitcher Zech Lemond was drafted in the third round of the MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. With the exception of Lemond, a multitude of pitchers have returned to the roster.Now in his 10th season with Rice, Pitching Coach Pat Hallmark said the team’s pitching staff will help the team win a lot of games.“We got a lot of guys back from last year, which means we expect to add to last season’s success,” Hallmark said. “They [all] have good stuff, [and] the biggest thing with our guys is to always throw strikes. If we get a lot of strikes from our pitchers, we feel very confident that they will have good games.” Hallmark said he knows two of his most reliable and experienced pitchers, juniors Kevin McCanna and Blake Fox, will be on the mound for the opening series against Texas.“We think Kevin and Blake will certainly be in there somewhere over the weekend,” Hallmark said. “The other two we are not sure about but we do know they will be very capable and compete at a high level.” 6-foot-4, 225-pound sophomore pitcher Jon Duplantier looks to have solidified a spot in the weekend rotation, having had a successful summer playing in the California Collegiate League. With a fastball capable of hitting 95 on the radar guns and a power slider, he was named the top prospect of the CCL and will be heavily relied on this season.Additionally, right-hander McCanna, who spent much of last year as the Friday night starter, is back and has shown command in intrasquad games thus far. He went 8-3 on the mound last year and was second on the team in both wins and innings, pitching behind only fellow teammate and All-American Blake Fox. Fox is coming off a season in which we went 12-0 (9-0 against Conference USA opponents) and was a finalist for the College Baseball Hall of Fame National Pitcher of the Year. This year, Fox was named the preseason favorite for Pitcher of the Year in C-USA.  Closer Junior reliever Matt Ditman was the surprise story of 2014. Ditman emerged as a dominant pitcher for the Owls last season. The former bullpen catcher appeared in 26 games for Rice and had nine saves on the year. His 1.83 earned run average and opponent hitters’ batting average of .198 on the season earned him preseason All-Conference honors this year. He is the only relief pitcher to have made the list. Ditman discussed being recognized by the conference for his achievements, and said he believes the important accolades come when the preseason honors can become postseason. “I am honored and happy to have gotten [recognized],” Ditman said. “But at the same time, I’d rather see postseason all-conference as opposed to preseason. I really want to focus on receiving postseason accolades for the sake of my teammates.” When Ditman looks at his fellow pitchers, he sees experienced guys who have tasted success. According to Ditman, he feels the Owls have the potential for another strong season. “When you look at our pitching staff, it’s a lot of guys who have already displayed success and have the capability to succeed at this level,” Ditman said. “We have a lot of potential to do something really special as a pitching staff.” Other notable pitchers for the Owls include juniors Ryan McCarthy and Austin Orewiler, who are midweek starter candidates. Additionally, junior Jordan Stephens is set to return from Tommy John surgery this season. In 2013, he led the Owls in innings pitched with 118.2 and recorded 100 strikeouts. Notable freshman standouts this year have been Ricky Salinas and Glenn Otto, who have the potential to see significant action.  Hitters On the opposite side of the ball, the Owls have many gaps to fill, having lost five of their nine offensive starters last season. Seniors Keenan Cook (RF), Michael Aquino (LF), Shane Hoelscher (3B), Chase McDowell (DH/RHP) and junior Skyler Ewing (1B) were either lost to graduation or drafted by MLB teams. Hitting Coach Clay Van Hook, in his fourth year as the Owls’ coach, talked about the highly restructured lineup for 2015. According to Van Hook, replacing the departed players will not be easy, but he believes the team has the talent to continue its winning tradition.“You know it’s always tough to replace four out of your top five hitters, not just from [the] hitting standpoint, but from the leadership that a lot of those guys had,” Van Hook said. “We feel we brought in a very athletic group of kids that we know will have a good future here at Rice.” Ahead of facing no. 10 ranked Texas, Van Hook said he needs his hitters to remain calm and realize that, in the game of baseball, composure in all situations is a must. “In terms of preparing the guys for Texas, it’s opening weekend and the juices are going to be flowing, [and] the adrenaline is going to be there,” Van Hook said. “The biggest thing for the young guys is to keep [their] composure and stay in the moment. I think the guys are prepared and [have done] a good job hitting in practice and intra-squads, so hopefully they are ready.”  Infield Returning for the Owls is the sure-handed duo of middle infielders, junior shortstop Leon Byrd and senior second baseman Ford Stainback. Both are effective runners and excellent hitters capable of hitting the ball to all areas of the field. Rounding out the infield is junior Connor Teykl at first base and junior college transfer Grayson Lewis at third base. In his first year with the Owls, Lewis said he is excited about being part of a team he claims is the most talented he’s ever been on.“It’s all been very exciting and really different from junior college [playing for Rice],” Lewis said. “This is the most talented team I’ve ever been on and is an honor to be a part of it. They continue to amaze me with all their talent on the field … [and] I feel lucky to be on a club that has such great team chemistry.” Outfield The outfield for the Owls has considerable depth, thanks in part to the addition of talented freshmen. Returning from last year’s squad is Charlie Warren, who is expected to transition to right field after spending most of his time last season at center field. The other two outfield positions are undecided as of yet as multiple Owls ranging from freshmen Ryan Chandler and Tristan Gray to seniors John Williamson and Kirby Taylor have each received significant reps at left and center field. Sophomore outfielder Dayne Wunderlich has also emerged as a hard-hitting sophomore with athleticism and speed who may prove to be a real weapon for the Owls.  Chandler projects to see significant playing time for the Owls. Entering his first season for Rice, he said he has learned much about the game at the collegiate level. “It’s a lot different [from] high school because the competition is much better,” Chandler said. “When you consider that everybody here was the best player on their high school team, you must turn it up a notch. You have to grind and give it your best every single day.”According to Chandler, the constant message he receives from his coaching staff and fellow teammates is to always remain confident at the plate.“The thing they have preached to us is being confident every time you are out there,” Chandler said. “It has really changed me personally as a hitter. Trusting them and trusting my teammates to help me and hold me accountable for what I’m supposed to do on the field has been key.”  Catchers Senior John Clay Reeves and junior Hunter Kopycinski will share the duty behind the plate this season. Reeves is arguably the best hitter on the roster with a 2014 batting average of .317 and was named the Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year. Entering his senior season, Reeves will be a threat on both sides of the ball, especially when it comes to two of the most important aspects of the game: Calling pitches for the pitching staff and power hitting. Kopycinski is a defensive-minded catcher capable of catching multiple innings. Coaches agree he has shown improvement this offseason and Kopycinski has made a case to be inserted in the lineup on a more consistent basis this season.  Outlook The Rice schedule includes notable non-conference games against many notable non-conference opponents. A few of these top-tier teams include Texas, Stanford University, Texas Christian University, the University of Arizona, the University of Houston and Sam Houston State University. Head Coach Wayne Graham, who earned his 1,000th Rice victory last season, said he enjoys playing these elite teams because it tests where Rice stands on a national scale. “You find out by playing good teams where you are and where you’ve got to go,” Graham said. “We think we can compete with [these top teams], and aside from these games being developmental it gives you a good power rating for later.” Entering his 24th year as head coach, Graham said he realizes the Owls streak of 19 straight conference championships and 20 straight NCAA tournament appearances is remarkable, but is not the ultimate goal of the season.“We always want to keep the string going because obviously it’s hard to get a streak like that going,” Graham said. “But we’d rather get to Omaha and win the national championship.” The 2015 season is set to begin this upcoming Friday, Feb. 13 at 6 p.m, when the Owls take on the University of Texas, Austin at Reckling Park.The last time the two teams played was the 2014 NCAA regional matchup where the Longhorns defeated Rice 3-2 in 11 innings and gave Rice their first of two losses in the regional tournament.

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:08am

Women's tennis falls to Texas Tech

The Rice University women’s tennis team faced off against Texas Tech University this weekend, falling 4-1. Senior Natalie Beazant, ranked no. 24 nationally, continued her unbeaten career against the Red Raiders. Beazant improved to 9-0 lifetime against Texas Tech. She beat the Red Raiders’ Kenna Kilgo 6-0, 6-3, but her victory wasn’t enough against a Texas Tech team that won the last three matches on courts three, four and five.Junior Solomiya Zinko, senior Stephanie Nguyen and sophomore Katherine Ip went into their matches tied 1-1 but came up a just bit short. Zinko fell 7-5, 4-1, Nguyen lost 6-4,6-4, and Ip lost 7-6, 2-1. Additionally, the team lost both doubles points 6-4 and 6-3.According to Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt, the loss hurts but will provide the team with insights into how they can improve.“I thought we put ourselves in [a] good position to win it but [we] just didn't keep our energy and aggression up enough to seal the deal,” Schmidt said. "While we are frustrated with this result, I am encouraged and confident that our team is walking out of Lubbock with a clear picture of what we need to do to continue to improve and grow."The Owls will try to bounce back against no. 6 ranked Baylor University on Friday, Feb. 13, and the University of Louisiana, Lafayette on Sunday, Feb. 15. 

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:07am

NCAA to rethink marijuana policy

On the heels of two University of Oregon players’ suspension from the college football National Championship game after testing positive for marijuana use, the NCAA announced that it will be reexamining its drug policy.According to the NCAA website, the association's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended extensive changes to the NCAA's drug testing policies, particularly with regards to testing for marijuana.According to the NCAA, the recommendations were to "First, strengthen the NCAA drug testing program for performance-enhancing substances; second, development of a shared model of deterrence for recreational drug use (e.g., marijuana, alcohol and opiates) with a focus on educational programs instead of a traditional testing model" and "the responsibility for deterrence will be shared between the NCAA and member schools."It remains unclear whether any policy changes will have an immediate impact at Rice. As of last semester, student athletes cannot be randomly tested for marijuana. Some, however, are skeptical of the decision. Mike Rhoades, head coach of Rice men’s basketball, said he still condemns drug use, regardless of what the NCAA decides. According to Rhoades, any change to NCAA policy would not impact his expectations of his players.“We’re in a position right now [where] our guys know what’s right and wrong, what is becoming of a Rice basketball player,” Rhoades said. “The NCAA can look at anything it wants, but we will always abide by the rules: The rules of the school, the rules of the NCAA.”According to Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard, Rice takes a hard stance against both recreational and performance-enhancing drug use.“Our approach is that both types of drugs are unhealthy for our students and may also lead to negative consequences for our programs,” Karlgaard said.According to a Rice student athlete, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of this topic, the policy will only encourage drug use and will ultimately reflect poorly on the student and the university.“I really think it’s bad; I don’t think drugs should have any part in Division I sports,” the athlete said. “Athletes receive scholarships to represent their school and should show a certain respect to the people paying for their education and to the sport itself.”The NCAA said it is considering changes because the current drug policy has, in their opinion, failed to deter recreational drug use. Student athlete drug surveys conducted by the NCAA have indicated that alcohol use has dipped only slightly, marijuana use has remained consistent and opiate use has increased. Furthermore, players who lose eligibility due to drug use are more likely to drop out, according to the NCAA’s study. The results have prompted the association to focus on recreational drug education rather than punishment.Some pro-marijuana legalization advocacy groups, however, have expressed their approval of the NCAA’s decision. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said the NCAA should not penalize athletes for marijuana use as it does not provide a competitive advantage, nor does it harm other non-users.“Punishing athletes for marijuana use has nothing to do with fairness or safety in competitive sports and everything to do with inappropriate extensions of the drug war into American life,” Nadelmann said. “It's great to see the NCAA join with other sports associations in revising this hypocritical and harmful policy.”According to Karlgaard, Rice Athletics will accept any future changes to the NCAA drug policy. “We will embrace any additional resources provided by the NCAA to educate our students on the consequences of drug use,” Karlgaard said. “I think it’s terrific that the NCAA is looking for better ways to educate students about drug use.”The NCAA will announce any changes by the end of 2015.

SPORTS 2/11/15 7:06am

Football inks 18 on National Signing Day

Each year, the first Wednesday in February is celebrated nationwide as the first day high school athletes can accept an athletic scholarship from a university. The day has become something of a spectacle in recent years, with recruiting websites and large networks such as ESPN joining in on its coverage.This year, Rice football signed 18 players to football scholarships beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. The class includes four defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, three cornerbacks, two safeties, two quarterbacks, two running backs, one tight end and one kicker.Additionally, 16 of the 18 seniors come from within the state of Texas. Three of the sixteen Texans hail from the Houston metropolitan area. Head Football Coach David Bailiff said Signing Day was the culmination of nearly a year’s work of recruiting and establishing relationships with the players. 16 of the 18 players who signed either went to Rice’s Junior Day workouts or attended Rice’s annual summer football camp.“It has been a fabulous day for Rice, but today has been a process where this really started back in March on Junior Day,” Bailiff said. “We’ve been developing relationships with a lot of these young men for quite some time and that really makes it special.”J.T. Granato, a local quarterback prospect from the Kinkaid School, has already garnered high expectations from the coaching staff. According to Bailiff, Granato, who threw for over 9,000 yards in his career, may be the future starting quarterback for the Owls due to his athletic and leadership abilities.“Not only is [Granato] a great quarterback, he’s a great leader,” Bailiff said. “We just think our future is bright at that position.”Bailiff and his staff added two more skill position players in Emanuel Esukpa and Nahshon Ellerby. This past season, Ellerbe had over 2,000 yards rushing and 700 receiving yards. Bailiff said Esukpa, who scored five touchdowns in a game this past season, reminds him of former Rice running back, Charles Ross, who led Conference USA in rushing in 2013.“He’s a powerful running back,” Bailiff said. “When you see him run ... he’s powerful, he’s explosive, but he’s still got the speed and agility to outrun you.”Defensively, Rice signed five defensive backs and four defensive linemen. According to Bailiff, the new defensive line recruits may be the best defensive recruits in the program’s history.“We have four of the best future defensive linemen we’ve ever signed here going into my ninth year,” Bailiff said. “The first young man, Zach Abercrumbia, had a lot of offers; he’s very disruptive and incredibly powerful with his hands. Blaine Plaggent is a kid when you watch his film you see how much he loves football. Carl Thompson is another guy like Zach Abercrumbia. We really think these three young men could play early for us if we needed. Carl is very explosive; he can play from sideline to sideline.”One of the players from outside of Texas, kicker Jack Fox, hails from Missouri and received high praise from Bailiff. Fox, the no. 28 kicker in the country according to ESPN, also played quarterback in high school but was recruited as a two-position player as a kicker and punter. Fox broke the Missouri high school record for field goals in a season this past year with 17. According to Bailiff, Fox’s athletic ability and leg strength made him an exciting signee.“He’s got an unbelievable leg when he punts,” Bailiff said. “We really liked the fact that he was also a quarterback, so he’s very athletic. He threw for 1,900 yards this year but we’re just going to ask him to get his foot to go to work for us.”According to Bailiff, Rice only wants student athletes who have a commitment to excellence both on and off the field.“We want young men who are serious about winning and serious about graduating,” Bailiff said. “We tell them all, ‘In five years we expect you to be a boss, and in ten years we expect you to pay your scholarship back to Rice and in 30 to 40 years we expect you to name a building after yourself.’ We have high expectations here, and I think we’re looking at a Conference USA championship-caliber class.”According to ESPN, 13 of the 18 signees are ranked as three-star prospects. However, not a single player on either Super Bowl team this year, the New England Patriots nor the Seattle Seahawks, was ranked as a five-star prospect out of high school. Bailiff said he believes in this class and believes they will help the team continue its winning ways. “It was a fabulous year,” Bailiff said. “We’re just excited for what these young men have stood for in their community, what they’ve stood for academically and athletically. They’re great fits and the future is bright.”

SPORTS 2/4/15 4:06pm

Baseball sweeps Conference USA preseason awards

The Conference USA coaches’ poll unanimously announced Rice as the favorite to be crowned 2015 C-USA champions on Jan. 28. Additionally, Rice junior pitcher Blake Fox was named the preseason Pitcher of the Year and senior catcher John Clay Reeves was named preseason Player of the Year. The Owls are currently ranked no. 13 in the nation on and no. 15 on Perfect Game. Reeves made an immediate impact last season in his first year with the Owls. He was named C-USA Newcomer of the Year after starting 56 of the 62 games as catcher and designated hitter, and was among the top players in the Conference in multiple hitting categories with seven home runs, 41 RBIs and a .439 slugging percentage. Reeves said the seniors on the squad are focused on teaching the younger players what it means to be a part of Rice baseball and have a drive to win in the postseason.  “I think like every other year you want to win, and not just our conference, but go deep into the [NCAA] tournament,” Reeves said. “With this great group of guys and multiple seniors on the team, we want to lead by example and teach the younger guys how to uphold the Rice baseball name.” Reeves said individual awards are nice but do not take away from preparing and working hard day in and day out.“It’s always nice to be recognized, but every year is different, so we [have] to remain focused and keep working hard daily,” Reeves said. Fox earned first team all-American honors last season after going 12-0 on the mound with a 1.46 earned run average. He was named one of three finalists for the College Baseball Hall of Fame National Pitcher of the Year award. Fox said he believes his teammates and coaching staff this season must have a competitive mindset to be successful. “As a pitcher, my goal is to get out there and compete to the best of my ability to give my team a chance to win,” Fox said. “I believe that if we all go out there and have that same goal then we will be very successful by [maximizing] all the talent on this team.” Fox said he was honored to be named as a finalist, but keeps things simple in terms of his approach to the game. “It was an honor to be named as one of the finalists, [but] just like my past two years … I want to go out there to compete, do my best and have fun,” Fox said.Head Coach Wayne Graham said Fox and Reeves are key players both on and off the field.“They are definitive leaders on the team and high citizenship, hard working men,” Graham said. “Obviously Fox has been a great pitcher for us and Reeves is a good catcher who can call his own game and is probably our best hitter.” 

SPORTS 2/4/15 4:05pm

The Fifth Quarter

The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his.As I sat in the McMurtry Commons watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie in sports that Rice students rarely experience.The commons’ lights were dimmed and the big game was displayed on the projector screen in HD, large enough for anyone in the room to see. Fans of both the Patriots and the Seahawks sat in the commons and glued their eyes to the screen as the servery made chicken wings, beans and nachos. Even fans of neither team, including myself, packed the commons to watch the game. After any big play the crowd either erupted with approval, disappointment or both. Watching the game with all those people gave us all insight on how sports can bring a community together and unite people with a common cause.In the future, I believe Rice or the individual colleges should put in a greater effort to replicate events like this. Not just for the Super Bowl, but especially for Rice athletic events. This past football season it was almost impossible to find a group  watching a Rice football game. Willy’s Pub hosted a watch party for Rice’s game against the University of Notre Dame. Pub was packed with screaming fans who were all united around a desire for Rice to pull off what would have been one of the biggest upsets in school history. Even though Rice ended up losing the game, it showed that Rice students can come together under the banner of athletics and share a common interest in a goal that unites us as Rice Owls.If Rice athletics has an away game that is televised, Rice or the colleges should show them in a common place where everyone and anyone can watch it. Far too often the student body shows apathy toward sporting events, and perhaps this can be a solution to that problem. A little school spirit can go a long way in improving our quality of life and community.