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The Class of 2013 Senior Scholar-Athletes group is on track to achieve 100 percent participation in the inaugural Owl Club Senior Gift initiative. 

photo (8).JPGDespite the rainy weather, a number of senior Owls took a break from the last week of classes to attend the Class of 2013 tailgate and cheer the baseball team on to an 11-2 victory over Texas Tech. 

The Senior Student Athlete Gift campaign and tailgate, organized by Rice Athletics and Owl Volleyball player Mariah Riddlespringer '14, offered the graduating class of scholar-athletes an opportunity to make their first gift to the Owl Club and lay a foundation for athletic giving post-graduation.

Women's basketball Lacey Neu was one of the Owls to make a commitment.  "Throughout our careers, we've learned how much Owl Club members provide each of us, financially and emotionally," she said. "They are a constant support system to us, cheering in the stands, and providing the scholarship support that allowed us to be Rice Owls in the first place. It's exciting to join a great group of fans like those in the Owl Club."

"100 % participation is the goal and we know we can achieve it", Riddlespringer stated.  "To have our senior teammates rise to the challenge and make a gift shows incredible loyalty to Rice Athletics and to each of us."

Riddlespringer's interest and enthusiasm for the Owl Club grew as she participated in various volunteer opportunities.  She participated in the Thank-a-thon calls and as a Scholar-Athlete Ambassador in donor hospitality areas.

 "I visited with our donors and heard how touched they were to talk with me or a teammate, and to hear about our Rice experience," she said. "It's a great honor to represent each Rice fan through Athletics so it was nice to get the chance to thank them as well.  It's also very exciting to help obtain new Owl Club members by throwing the Senior Class tailgate."

"Through the Owl Club, Rice Athletics continues to attract the highest caliber of scholar-athletes to represent Rice University," said Rick Greenspan, director of athletics. "To have the senior scholar-athletes make their first gift to the Owl Club before they graduate exemplifies the future leaders our department and the university seek to cultivate and provides each student with an appreciation of the gifts they received from our current donors." 

The senior gift campaign continues through graduation on May 11.  If you'd like to make a gift to the Owl Club in honor of the Class of 2013 and support scholarships for Rice Owl scholar-athletes, please contact the Owl Club at 713-348-OWLS(6957) or make a gift online at giving.rice.edu (and select 'Athletics-Owl Club' from the drop down menu.)

The Student Graduates As An Athlete

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 6611190.jpegThis weekend sees the collegiate tennis dual season draw to a close for both the Rice men's and women's teams. A year's worth of practice, conditioning, tournaments and dual action all wraps up with dual matches for the women on Saturday and the men the following day.

 Both teams will pause to honor the senior members of their teams, an annual final salute to players who came to Rice to continue their tennis careers while parlaying that success as juniors and in high school into an opportunity to avail themselves of one of the top educational opportunities in the country.

Five of the six have led dual lives during their entire time at Rice, balancing the sometimes conflicting pursuit of excellence in the classroom and on the court in a manner that few outside the hedges can fully comprehend.  Through sleepless nights soaked in doubt and faced with seemingly impossible deadlines, they have emerged as the latest evidence that while difficult, the twin pursuits can blend to produce a graduate ready to face down whatever challenges lie ahead in their futures.

The sixth will take his bows having lived a far more unique existence. 

Dylan Tozier will be the third of three men's tennis seniors honored at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Sunday, ending his one season as a varsity athlete after attending Rice three years focused upon his academic pursuits.

While there are any number of former athletes at Rice who have transitioned to student life after injuries cut short their dreams of competitive success, it is rare to find a dedicated student, especially one who was hoping to earn admission to Cal Tech for graduate studies, who would suddenly opt for the physical and schedule demands of collegiate athletics.

Tozier was happy to take on the challenge, and on Sunday he will gladly take his bow and proudly accept his letterman's jacket, forever being affirmed as a student-athlete.

"He was a great addition to our team," Rice head men's coach Efe Ustundag said. "It would have been very easy for him to say that with the academic demands he had in front of him that it was too much to continue.  But he never complained, and he always made up any practice time he had to miss because of classes.   I think he gave the rest of the team a new perspective on the game, because he loves to play and was driven to improve and be an asset to the team."

Tozier was no stranger to a tennis court.  He first began playing the sport while growing up in Tampa after souring on baseball when his youth league coach showed a stubborn tendency to play his own son over the best interests of team.

"I was 10 and at that point, I decided I'd had enough of baseball," Tozier said. "My mother had played tennis in high school and still played, but she wasn't too serious about it. But I was watching Wimbledon when I was nine and I made the comment to her that I wanted to play tennis, so she signed me up for lessons.   I played high school tennis and competed in a few USTA tournaments, but I never took it too seriously.  It was more of a hobby for me."

He was a two-year captain of his team at Plant High School in Tampa, but never considered himself in the class of player who could count on tennis to aid in his choice of colleges.

At Rice, he continued to dabble in the game, playing club tennis and serving at the club's President.  He reconnected with Andy Wang, another player from Tampa who was playing for the Owls, and the two occasionally played a set or two.

Wang encouraged Tozier to look into joining the team.

"He said I should look into it, and after I thought about it for a while and realized it was the last chance I had to play a D1 sport, so I decided to go for it, " Tozier recalled.

Wang graduated last spring, but before leaving, he told Tozier that he had asked new Owls head coach Efe Ustundag to stop by to watch them play.  Ustundag, who was taking over for Ron Smarr, knew that his squad for 2012-13 was lacking the depth needed to conduct full practices.  He was looking for potential walk-ons. After watching Tozier hit with Wang, Ustundag was encouraged enough to tell Tozier to check back in at the start of the fall semester if he was still interested.

Tozier knew that he needed to vastly improve all aspects of his conditioning and play.  A set with a friend while the coach was watching was one thing, being able to assimilate into a routine that others have followed for most of their lives was another.

The only problem was that most of his summer would be spent on an internship in Washington, D.C. and his free time was minimal.  Thankfully, he had a three-week break from the end of his internship to the start of classes in the fall, and for those three weeks, Tozier became a tennis junkie.

"I had a lot of kinks to get out after three years of not playing at a competitive effort," Tozier said. "I started working out for the first time in my life.  I wasn't able to play much tennis while I was on my internship,but I got into decent shape. In those three weeks at home, I pretty much played tennis all day, every day to get ready."

Tozier made his follow up call to Ustundag who was true to his word and invited him to come over to Jake Hess and hit with the team.  Ustundag extended the offer to join the team and Tozier immediately set out to show that he did not take the invitation lightly.

"I decided if I was going to join the team, I didn't want to do it half-hearted. I wanted to improve to where I would be able to contribute.   If I wasn't practicing as much as the rest of the team I would never get anywhere close to their level. I knew from the beginning that I had to make a full commitment. I have definitely gotten a lot better and I am to the point where I feel like I can keep up with practice and contribute in some ways."

Tozier became the tennis rookie on a team with four veteran student-athletes (Jonathan Chang, Peter Frank, Phililpp Seifert and Leif Berger) and three rookie college students in freshmen Tommy Bennett, Gustavo Gonzalez, Adam Gustafsson.  The four newcomers found themselves in a unique position to share experiences with the other.

"I was a senior but at the same time, I was the newest guy on the team, because the freshmen had been in for a while and had been practicing with the team.  It was an interesting place to me. I had the three years of experience in academics at Rice so I got to talk to them about classes at Rice and they talked to me about how to get better at tennis.  It worked out pretty well."

What his Owl teammates learned quickly was that while Tozier had a clear understanding of his role, he was not willing to cut corners. He fully committed to be a full member of the team, making up any missed sessions with the team due to class commitments, a commitment that resulted in a major change in the routine he had for his first three years.  

6589787.jpeg"It's a lot different, I don't see people as much around campus, but it is definitely enjoyable.  I was quite excited about the opportunity, It definitely makes the academics more difficult since a significant amount of your time is taken up with practices.   These last couple weeks have been tough because my Senior Design project is coming due."

Over the past eight months, Tozier and his friends have gained a new perspective on the rigors of the dual assignment of academics and athletics.

"It's been eye-opening to my roommates, because now I am the one telling them I have to get to sleep because I have morning conditioning before classes.  I don't think any of us really understood what kind of schedule it takes to be an athlete at Rice."

His academic work paid dividends when he was accepted Cal Tech, where he will do graduate work in the school's Material Science graduate program.

His athletic work reached a milestone in March when he up his first career win at as Owl, teaming with Gonzalez to defeat a duo from USC in the opening round of the West Coast Doubles Championship in La Jolla, California.  On Sunday, he will close a brief collegiate career by playing against Prairie View in the second of two matches that day.  But he doesn't plan for it to be his last time facing college tennis players.

 "I noticed that they have a DIII men's tennis team at Cal Tech, so I am sure I will find a way to hit some balls with them," he smiled.  

 

The Rice University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Methodist Hospital Blood Center are sponsoring  the third annual "Pitches for Pints" Blood Drive on Friday between 3-7 p.m.  in Fox Gymnasium which is adjacent to Tudor Fieldhouse, near the entrance to Reckling Park.   Participatnts will also have the opportunity to register for the bone marrow "Bet a Match" program, even if you are not able to donate blood on Friday. 

 What is "Be a Match"?  Former Owls pitcher, Stephen Bess '99 explains:

If you had the opportunity to save the life of a lymphoma or leukemia patient with virtually no risk to your personal health, could you say no?

 

Did you know you could register to become a bone marrow donor with a simple mouth swab, and that a life saving blood stem cell donation requires no surgery?

 

Bess015.jpg These are questions I ask when discussing the often misunderstood "Be The Match" global bone marrow registry with friends. My name is Stephen Bess, Rice class of '99.  I'm a proud Sid Rich college grad, and a member of the Rice baseball team from '96-'99.  Because of my involvement in sports my entire life, I was fortunate to be healthy well into my mid-30's.

 

This past November, I was diagnosed with A.L.L. leukemia, a blood cancer of the white blood cells. My diagnosis came as a big surprise, and it has certainly changed my perspective on life. My hope for a cure and complete remission relies upon a bone marrow transplant from a volunteer blood donor hero just like you.

 

I'm fortunate to receive excellent care at City of Hope in Los Angeles, a national leader in bone marrow transplants.  I'm writing to encourage all of my fellow Rice grads, plus your family and friends, to consider becoming bone marrow donors.  The process is easy and 100% voluntary from beginning to end, and again, the stem cell transplant requires no surgery on your part. 

 

Registration begins with a simple DNA mouth swab, and if your genetic makeup matches with a blood cancer patient in need, your stem cell donation could save a life.  I encourage you to research the donor match process at www.marrow.org to see if it's right for you. 

 

If you decide to register, you can start the process at this Friday's Rice vs Harvard baseball game at Reckling Park. For thousands of blood cancer patients out there, our only hope for a life saving cure is to match with a volunteer bone marrow stem cell donation.

 

Please consider registering with Be The Match to save a life, and Go Owls!

 

Stephen Bess

Rice class of '99

 

 

 

 

"Pitches for Pints" Blood Drive/Bone Marrow Donation Registry FAQ

 

What should I expect?   The process should take about 20 minutes start to finish and is pain free. Donors will receive juice or a cookie and a t-shirt afterward.

 

What if I can't give blood?   Don't worry! "Be the Match" Tissue typing for bone marrow registry will also be located in Fox Gym. Stop by to add your name to the registry-it only takes a minute!

Other Questions?   For FAQs and Donor Eligibility visit the Methodist website http://www.methodisthealth.com/basic.cfm?id=35889call the Methodist Blood Donor Center at 713.441.1788 or email Halsey Fowler at hgf1@rice.edu.

 

 

Godber comes back to Texas

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Godber signing.jpgJust over one year ago, Peter Godber was a member of the World Team who shocked the USA team in the 2012 International Bowl in Austin.  

This morning, he officially began his college career in Texas by signing with the Owls.

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Owls Helmet Auction Among Best

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             bowlhelmetblog.jpg  From the moment the first photo of the Owls special bowl game helmet design hit the social media frequencies in December, it was apparent that Rice had struck a chord with fans.

               How much so became evident after one helmet was offered for auction online at RiceOwls.com prior to the Armed Forces Bowl.   The winning bid was for $1,585 and when the final numbers for all auctions conducted over the holidays by all the schools whose websites are hosted by CBS Interactive, the Rice Armed Forces Bowl helmet was the third most popular auction item offered by a school.

               A pair of items related to the Army-Navy game offered by Navy topped the list. An Army-Navy Rivalry Helmet went for $3,026 while and Army-Navy jersey package went for $1,860.

               Among the items trailing the Rice helmet, there was both a helmet ($ 1,360) and jersey ($800) offered by Army prior to the Army-Navy game.  

               Nearly 60 items were offered by schools during December for auction.

               The auction wasn't the only online area that saw an impressive upturn thanks to the Owls appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl.

               The Owls' online store registered the second highest sales month in history, topped only by the sales in December of 2006 when Rice earned its first bowl berth in 45 years.

A Neighbor's Journey Completed

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Katie Gater begins her senior season of college tennis as the Rice Owls open their fall tournament schedule by competing in the Midland Invitational in Midland, Texas this weekend.

She does so as the captain of a Rice team that made history in her first year with the program, winning its first NCAA matches and reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in history.

5937054.jpeg  Any emotions she might be experiencing as her senior season is about to begin pale in comparison to the emotions she felt on Monday as she watched a neighbor from home complete a remarkable journey.

It was a journey fraught with challenges that would have crumbled a lesser individual.  An individual pursuit burdened with expectations of immeasurable proportion used as the standard as a nation eagerly watched each new chapter unfold.  

The senior from Dunblane, Scotland, will take the court in Midland on Friday with a residual sense of pride and relief knowing that her neighbor from her hometown, Andy Murray,  had outlasted Novak Djokovik in an epic five-set match to win the U.S. Open.  After several gut wrenching close calls, Murray had given Great Britain its first men's Grand Slam tennis title since the 1930's.   

Gater could not help but shed tears of joy as Murray rallied to win the fifth and final set after Djokovic had won two straight to tie the match.  She had followed Murray's career through the struggles and drama with special interest, because the two had been neighbors since Gater's parents moved to Dunblane when she was three years old.

Gater had been born in Rochester, New York, but her childhood memories are almost exclusively of the small town in Scotland, where she grew up two doors down from Murray's house.  A town of less than 10,000, located midway between Perth and Glasgow, Gater's parents found it to be the perfect location to settle after returning home to Scotland after working in the U.S. for several years.

Little did they know when moving into their new home that they were settling two doors down from a tennis-playing family, featuring two sons coached by their mother. 

Judy Murray has been a competitive player in her youth and had turned her attention to coaching her two sons, Jamie and Andy along with other talented youngsters.  

"She was the Scottish Junior Coach and was the one who would take teams to tournaments in Europe," Gater recalled. "We lived a street away from the local tennis courts and I would go there with my Dad.  She came by the courts often and saw me hitting one day and invited me to try out for the Scottish team."

With its central location, Dunblane was an ideal training center for the junior team and it meant that Gater could develop her talents without dealing with lengthy travel challenges.

Andy Murray was already establishing himself as a promising international player, but when he was home, he sometimes drew the duty of occupying the attention of Gater and her young teammates while Judy Murray was attempting to talk to the team's parents.

"Judy would tell Andy to go hit with us so she could talk to the parents without interruptions.  It was probably only a handful of times, but it's fun to remember it now," Gater said.

Judy Murray would go on to coach Gater from age 8 to 14 before she turned all her attention to supporting Andy's rapid advancement.  But Gater was hooked on tennis, and Judy Murray's initial offer to join the junior team had set in motion Gater's own journey that would eventually lead her to Rice.

As Gater progressed through the junior ranks, she could marvel at the advancement Andy was making as well.  He won the Junior U.S. Open, stoking the fires of the rabid British tennis fanbase who were yearning for a champion to call their own.   He was soon anointed by the British press as the one who would end the long dry spell in men's Grand Slam events.  

Sports history is filled with cautionary tales regarding young talents who were identified as the next big thing at far too young an age only to wither under the pressure and never meet the expectations of others.  But the hopes of a nation to win tennis tournaments was seemingly trivial compared to those of his hometown, who saw in Murray a chance to cleanse a scar that was not of their doing.

In 1996, a gunman entered the Dunblane Primary school and killed 16 students and one adult before killing himself.  Andy Murray was eight at the time and was locked down with his classmates while police searched for the gunman. Gater, who was four and one year younger than the victims, was not yet attending school.  It remains an association the town and its citizens continue to work tirelessly to erase and are reluctant to discuss. 

"Because I was so young, it's been something that people bring up to me rather than something I talk about.  It's not something anyone from Dunblane likes to talk about," Gater stated.

As a burgeoning tennis star, Murray was seen by some as the perfect counter to the horror of that day.  It was not a role he sought, nor was it a subject he spoke of, but the association remained.  

As Judy Murray's new pupil, Gater eagerly followed her neighbor's rise up the tennis rankings, barely able to imagine what the weight of those combined expectations felt like each time he took the court.

She earned a scholarship to Virginia, where she played for two seasons.  In the fall of 2011, she transferred to Rice, a move that helped spark a memorable year on the court for the Owls.   After the season, she began a summer internship, just in time to see her neighbor seemingly poised to deliver on all the hopes and dreams of his countrymen by winning tennis most hallowed event, the singles title at Wimbledon. 

Murray became the first native son to reach the final since 1938 and won the first set from Roger Federer.  But the legendary Swiss player was chasing history of his own and rallied to win his seventh Wimbledon crown, matching Pete Sampras' record.  

In the aftermath, as the awards to the winner and runner-up were presented, the crowds that packed the grounds of the All England Tennis Club in the hopes of unleashing a celebration unlike anything seen at the prestigious venue instead were struggling to come to grips with the result.

When Murray took the microphone to address the throngs, he struggled to maintain his renowned composure. The pain he felt proved too great to contain, and a nation saw its tennis prodigy in a new light as the emotion of the moment overcame him.  There was hardly a dry eye amongst those who were there in person and those watching around the world.  

"I cried when he was speaking," Gater said. "He's never emotional but to listen to him struggle to speak and to see all the people with him crying, it was very difficult to see."

Thankfully, Murray fans around the world would not have to wait long to see him stand in victory on Wimbledon's legendary grass courts.

One month later, Murray and Federer were back at Centre Court, but this time, the prize was an Olympic Gold Medal.  Aided by the emotion of a country that was inspiring heroic efforts by the home team in venues throughout London, Murray made sure there was no comeback by Federer this time.  As a country rose to celebrate his moment, Andy Murray could finally deliver the winner's speech at Wimbledon.

In Dunblane, a grateful populace painted a post office box gold in his honor after his Olympic triumph.  No word yet what kind of commemoration a US Open title will merit.

10060562.jpgAs Gater watched him rally against Djokovic  this week, ending 75 years of waiting for British fans, she happily shed a few more tears of joy for her neighbor and for all his victory represented.

 "What Andy has done with his tennis has put Dunblane in good light," Gater said.

She holds no such weighty aspirations to her own upcoming season.  

Just a chance to return to the courts with her Rice teammates, looking to build upon their 2012 success, playing the game the mother of her neighbor helped her master on her home courts in Dunblane.  

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2012 Rice Football season tickets are on their way to those who have already purchased their seats. 

In addition to their 2012 Owls tickets, our season ticket holders are also receiving a copy of the "100 Years of Rice Football" commemorative DVD that was produced last season.  This special DVD offering is only being made available to our donors and football season ticket holders.

This DVD includes rare footage and interviews with many Rice football legends. As a special commemorative bonus in honor of Tommy Kramers' induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, the DVD also contains a copy of the 1976 highlight film "The Rice Air Corps".

Rice season tickets include discounted prices for the Bayou Bucket showdown with Houston at Reliant Stadium on September 29.  Those tickets will be mailed at a later date.

There is still time remaining to purchase your 2012 season tickets, and receive your copy of this special commemorative piece that is a must for every fan of Rice Football.  Season tickets are currently on sale online  or by calling the Rice Athletic Ticket Office at (713) 522-OWLS

 

David Bailiff on "Great Day Houston"

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Rice head coach David Bailiff stopped by the KHOU studio on Thursday to promote Thursday night's Women's Football Clinic and to present host Deborah Duncan with her plaque for being a guest coach at the Spring Game.

 

King Hill Funeral and Memorials

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Funeral services for King Hill will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Forest Park in The Woodlands.   A visitation will be held from 5-9 p.m. on Friday.

 

For driving directions, as well as to sign the guest book, please click here

 

 The family has designated three options for donations in lieu of flowers in his memory:

 

The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation www.themmrf.org

 

National Fragile X Foundation www.fragilex.org

 

Rice University  giving.rice.edu/

 

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