Stepping onto familiar courts for the first time in nearly a month and with an energetic group of fans in the stands to urge them on, the Rice Owls fought off a series of challenges to snap a three-match losing streak and race past 35th ranked Oklahoma, 5-2 at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Sunday.
The Owls (7-3) had not played a match at Jake Hess since the end of January, and have played their last five matches on the road. They had dropped the last three against teams ranked in the top 42 in the country. But head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said she saw something in the Owls’ reaction to their loss at Texas A&M on Friday that gave her a hint they would be ready for the Sooners (5-6) on Sunday.
“I knew coming out of the locker room at A&M that they would be ready to go today,” Schmidt said. “I can’t really express how proud of them that I am. They way they bounced back from some very tough losses and came out today and battled was very special.”
The doubles competition featured a matchup of nationally ranked duos at No.1, but Rice’s Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath, who entered the match ranked 47th, made quick work of Oklahoma’s 30th ranked tandem of Whitney Ritchie and Marie-Pier Huet, winning their set, 8-1. The Sooners stuck back with a win at No. 2 doubles, which left the match’s first point to be again decided at No. 3.
Rice’s team of Kimberly Anicete and Stephanie Nguyen found themselves in the exact opposite position they had been on Friday, where they saw a 6-3 lead erased as the Aggies took the point with an 8-6. On Sunday, the Owls’ pair found themselves down 5-2 before rallying to take a 6-5 lead and then holding serve down 8-7 to force a tie-breaker, which they won 11-9 to give Rice a 1-0 lead.
“I really have to thank our fans for helping pull us through the doubles and some of the other tough moments today,” Schmidt said. “With it being Spring Break, we knew there would not be any students here to watch, but we had a great turnout of fans, and they really knew when to give our team the extra lift they needed,” she added.
Beazant raised her season singles record to 9-1 with a straight-set win at No. 1 and Anicete followed with a straight set win at No. 5 to push the margin to 3-0. But the clinching point would prove elusive for the Owls, as two of the final four singles matches were extended to third sets.
Kate Gater provided the clinching point, grinding out a 7-5, 7-5 win at No. 4 that lasted well into the third sets of the other singles matches.
Senior Ana Guzman bounced back from a 6-0 loss in her first set at No. 4 to win in three sets and score the Owls final point of the afternoon.
After an off day on Monday, the Owls will be back at practice on Tuesday as they prepare for a pair of home matches next weekend. They will host BYU on Friday at 11 a.m. and then host 42nd ranked South Florida on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium.
Oklahoma vs Rice
2/26/2012 at Houston, Texas
(Jake Hess Tennis Stadium)
#68 Rice 5, #35 Oklahoma 2
1. Natalie Beazant (RICE) def. Marie-Pier Huet (OKLAHOMA) 6-0, 6-2
2. Whitney Ritchie (OKLAHOMA) def. Dominique Harmath (RICE) 5-7, 6-2, 6-1
3. Katie Gater (RICE) def. Mia Lancaster (OKLAHOMA) 7-5, 7-5
4. Ana Guzman (RICE) def. Abbi Melrose (OKLAHOMA) 0-6, 6-4, 6-2
5. Kimberly Anicete (RICE) def. Whitney Wofford (OKLAHOMA) 6-1, 6-3
6. Nicole Long (OKLAHOMA) def. Stephanie Nguyen (RICE) 6-4, 6-4
1. #47 Natalie Beazant/Dominique Harmath (RICE) def. #30 Whitney Ritchie/Marie-Pier Huet (OKLAHOMA) 8-1
2. Mia Lancaster/Abbi Melrose (OKLAHOMA) def. Ana Guzman/Katie Gater (RICE) 8-6
3. Kimberly Anicete/Stephanie Nguyen (RICE) def. Peta Maree Lancaster/Nicole Long (OKLAHOMA) 9-8 (11-9)
Oklahoma 5-6; National ranking #35
Rice 7-3; National ranking #68
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (1,5,6,3,2,4)