Owls Answer TCU Challenge

The Rice men’s tennis team battled back from early disappointments and turned the tables on recent fortunes by coming out on top in some crucial tie-breakers in singles to take a 4-3 decision over TCU at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Saturday. The win moved the Owls record to 13-4 this season, while TCU fell to 5-11.

“We really played hard and I am really proud the way we battled back,” Rice head men’s coach Ron Smarr said. “There was a time today when we looked dead in the water. But we hung in there and some guys who weren’t feeling their best fought hard for four and a half hours. We’ve had some matches lately where we weren’t up to this kind of challenge,” Smarr added.

The tone for the day was set when the teams first converged on the courts for the doubles matches. After TCU won at No. 3, Rice’s No. 2 duo of Christian Saravia and Sam Garforth-Bles evened things with a 9-8 win, thanks to a 7-3 win in the tie-breaker. But the Horned Frogs’ 44th ranked pairing of Emanuel Brighiu and Christopher Price fought off the challenge of Rice’s Harry Fowler and Oscar Podlewski, winning their own tiebreak, 7-2 to take the match, 9-8 and give TCU the first point of the day.

Michael Nuesslein put the Owls on the board with a straight-set win at No. 6, but Price quickly put TCU back in front with a similar result at No. 3. Peter Frank, who missed last weekend’s Rice Invitational, returned to the lineup at No. 2 and tied the match back up at 2-2 with a straight set win.

Saravia won a tie-breaker in his first singles set, then battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the second set win 7-5 and give the Owls their first lead of the day, 3-2. Garforth-Bles then completed a rally of his own, bouncing back from a first set loss to even the match with a 6-3 win in the second and then clinch the match by winning a third-set, tie-break, 7-5 to give the Owls the win over a Horned Frog team that Smarr is certain is far better than their current national ranking.

“Even though TCU is only ranked 72nd right now, this was the first time this year they had their full lineup on the court together. When we look at this match later in the year, it will be a win over a team that’s going to be in the top 30,” Smarr noted.

The Owls schedule does not ease up in the coming weeks. They will be back on the Jake Hess courts on Wednesday when they host No. 6 Texas A&M at 1:30. They travel to No. 4 Texas on Saturday before wrapping up the regular season schedule with road matches with No. 27 Tulsa and No. 30 Oklahoma and home contests with No. 59 SMU and Texas-Arlington.

TCU vs Rice
3/26/2011 at Houston, TX
(Jake Hess Tennis Stadium)
#33 Rice 4, #72 TCU 3
Singles competition
1. #74 Emanuel Brighiu (TCU) def. #87 Harry Fowler (RICE) 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 6-4
2. Peter Frank (RICE) def. Zach Nichols (TCU) 6-4, 7-5
3. Christopher Price (TCU) def. Oscar Podlewski (RICE) 6-1, 6-4
4. Sam Garforth-Bles (RICE) def. Soren Goritzka (TCU) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
5. Christian Saravia (RICE) def. Daniel Sanchez (TCU) 7-6 (9-7), 7-5
6. Michael Nuesslein (RICE) def. Paul Chappell (TCU) 6-4, 6-2

Doubles competition
1. #44 Emanuel Brighiu/Christopher Price (TCU) def. Harry Fowler/Oscar Podlewski (RICE) 9-8 (7-2)
2. Christian Saravia/Sam Garforth-Bles (RICE) def. Zach Nichols/Daniel Sanchez (TCU) 9-8 (7-3)
3. Paul Chappell/Cameron Nash (TCU) def. Michael Nuesslein/Jonathan Chang (RICE) 8-6

Match Notes:
TCU 5-11; National ranking #72
Rice 13-4; National ranking #33
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (6,3,2,5,4,1)

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