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NCAA Women's Tennis Notes:

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NCAA Memories:  Rice junior Kate Gater began her college career at the University of Virginia and as a freshman played both singles and doubles in the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Championship.  She was 0-1 in singles with a second match unfinished and was 0-2 in her two doubles matches as the Cavilers defeated Princeton and then fell to Duke.  She was a ready resource for her Owl teammates looking for a little perspective on the NCAA experience.

 

"You can definitely tell that everything is on the line. It's the pinnacle of everything you work for all year. It's very intense.  The team we have (at Rice) is full of people who enjoy playing and I feel like we do very well when we are under pressure. 

 

"No one has asked specifically about what it was like, but I think that's because I honestly think that this team treats every match the same.  Since we played Illinois earlier in the year and the matches were really close, we going in with the mindset that we have a very good shot at winning and just concentrate on playing one point at a time."

 

The Last Time:  In 2006, Blair DeSesa played #1 singles for a Rice team that shocked the C-USA tournament by winning the title as the 7th seed, earning her teammates a berth in the NCAA Championship, as well a berth in the NCAA Singles Championship.  Now married to former Owls baseball player Tyler Henley, Blair Henley has worked as a volunteer coach for the 0wls and witnessed the development of the 2012 team into an NCAA qualifier.  She reflected on her own experiences

"We had been low seed, I am fairly sure no one expected us to be playing in the NCAAs.  We were all thinking this was our last shot and it worked out for us.   It was such a privilege to be there. You realize this is what you had worked for.

 

"I won't lie.... As great as it is to be at a school where you are challenged academically, it was fantastic to be able to practice and play with no distractions.  You could see that in practice this week (with the current Owls). A few of the girls came up and told me how fantastic it was to not have a class or a lab to worry about. It absolutely takes some of the pressure off and it clears your mind to be able to focus ball-by-ball and trying to win your matches.

 

"No one has come up to ask any specific questions about the NCAAs, but they have mentioned that the last time we went in my senior year. I have been blessed to be a part of the team this year and to see their growth from the fall to this point.  They absolutely deserve to be where they are.  What many people don't realize is that the tennis season is all year, there is no break or offseason.  To be able to stay injury-free, stay persistent and stay hungry throughout the entire year of school with school work on top of that.... I have a lot of respect for them."

 

Change of Plans:  Rice's lone senior Ana Guzman was set to walk in Rice's commencement on Saturday and had family members coming in from various points, including her home in Guatemala. However, her family gladly made the change in plans and after arriving in Houston earlier in the week, they made the drive to Oxford with the team to watch her compete in the NCAA Championship.

 

"I could not think of a better reason to not be able to walk in graduation," Guzman said. "My whole family is coming in and they are going to drive over with us to see the Regional.  It's still a good trip and everyone will be together, and it's for a very good reason. "

 

Change of Plans II:  Dominique Harmath was set to spend the summer studying in Pamplona, Spain as part of Rice's International Study program. Qualifying for the NCAA Doubles Championship with Natalie Beazant at the end of May caused her to have to make some slight alterations to her travel schedule, but her busy summer is still on track.

 

"My international study schedule had to be adjusted a bit when we made the doubles, but it wasn't too hard to make a few minor changes.  I will be studying in Pamplona, Spain, but I am also going to Dubai and also to Hungary to visit some relatives.   My cousin just started working in Dubai, so it's a chance I might not have again.  I haven't been back to see my family who lives in Hungary for about three years, so I am excited to see them again."

20th Rice Golf Classic

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Each spring the Women's Athletics Advisory Board puts on the Rice Golf Classic, with proceeds benefiting Rice University women's athletic teams. It is the major fund raising event of the year for Rice women's athletics. This year's event, held on Monday at Black Horse Golf Club, was another success. Enjoy the video montage and the interviews shown below:

Greg Williams, women's basketball:

Elizabeth Schmidt, women's tennis:

Wanna Hadnott, Women's Athletics Advisory Board:

Saturday Afternoon Live

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From the good folks at Fox, here are the systems that will carry Saturday afternoon's Rice-Houston game live.   Additional systems as well as many of these will also rebroadcast the game, but these are the live availabilities for Saturday:

 

FSN NETWORK,  FOX SPORTS ARIZONA , FOX SPORTS DETROIT , FOX SPORTS MIDWEST (Fox Sports Plus) MSG PLUS , FOX SPORTS NORTH, FOX SPORTS WISCONSIN, FOX SPORTS OHIO, ROOT SPORTS (Pittsburgh Region), ROOT SPORTS (Rocky Mountain Region), FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST (TX & OK), FOX SPORTS HOUSTON (Texas) SUN SPORTS

Catching up with Luke Willson

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After another day of baseball drills and one day after he made it 2x2 with Toronto professional sports teams after the Argonauts selected him in the 5th round of the CFL Draft, Rice tight end Luke Willson checked in for a second to provide a glimpse of his time in the Toronto Blue Jay Extended Spring Training Program in Dunedin, Florida.

 

What is your daily routine like?

 

If there was one thing that is really different from what I expected, it would be the pace of everything.  It's very deliberate and low-key.  A lot of drills, but not an anything like the pace I am used to during football practice.

 

I'm guessing you might be one of the bigger guys walking around camp?

 

(laughs).... Definitely one of the more filled-out guys here.  There are a few tall guys, but they are more slender.  It's kinda nice, I guess.

 

How has the adjustment back into a baseball routine gone?

 

I think I've adjusted and gotten used to as the days have gone along. But the daily routine is pretty mundane.

 

Anything stick in your mind at this point?

 

Maybe one of the biggest highlights at the start was when I realized the first day of batting practice when I realized that Sandy Alomar Sr. was going to be throwing to us.   That was pretty special.  There are a couple guys here who have big league time and are on rehab assignments.  Most of the guys here are pretty tired of the daily routine and are looking forward to moving on to their teams at the end of the month.

 

Will you get any game action before camp breaks and you head back to Houston?

 

That's about to start and I am looking forward to seeing some pitching.  We have a rotating schedule with the other clubs in this area. We play the Pirates on Monday and Tuesday, the Yankees on Wednesday and Thursday, and then the Phillies on Friday and Saturday.   As I said, I'm ready to see some pitching. I think I'm ready to see how I'll do.

 

What's your schedule like the rest of the way?

 

We have camp games until the end of the month. At that time, most of the guys here will go on to their assigned teams.   The youngest guys will stay here and play Gulf Coast League games, but the rest of them will go on to either Bluefield, West Virginia in the Appalachian League or Vancouver in the Northwest League.   But I'll be heading back to Houston for the start of summer school and summer conditioning.

 

Meet Allison Pye

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Rice Owl senior distance runner Allison Pye has accomplished a lot during her four years as a student-athlete. Below are Pye's highlights:

  • Third-fastest outdoor 5000m time in Rice history
  • Second-fastest indoor 5000m time in Rice history
  • 2007, 2008, 2011 All-NCAA South Central Region Cross Country
  • 2007, 2008, 2011 C-USA Cross Country First Team
  • 2010 C-USA Cross Country Second Team
  • 2009 C-USA Indoor 5000m - 2nd place
  • 2012 C-USA Indoor 5000m - 3rd place
  • 2008, 2009 NCAA Outdoor 5000m qualifier
  • 2009 C-USA Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year
  • 2011 C-USA Track & Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year
  • 2011 CoSIDA Academic All-District VI
  • USTFCCA Academic-All American
  • 10,000m champion at Victor Lopez Classic

  • On April 21 former Rice Owl Philip Humber took over the day's sports news by throwing a perfect game in the major leagues. The event created a whirlwind of national attention and even landed the Sid Richardson-ex an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.

    Perhaps the most impressive and inspiring aspect of recent
    "Humber-mania" however, was that when things settled down some for Philip, he turned his thoughts to his alma mater and Head Coach - Wayne Graham. Earlier this week Philip sent coach Graham a letter which is now published here with the permission of both parties...

    Coach Graham,

    I read that you and the team were watching the closing moments of the game on Saturday after you all had finished off an exciting win yourselves. The article said that you were 'calling for the slider in the ninth inning.'  That reminded me of my first game as an Owl, when you called a 3-2 curveball from the dugout with the bases loaded and the Aggie fans going crazy at Minute Maid.

    I think that one moment sums up what you mean to me as a person and a ballplayer. You believed that I was up to the task and because of the leader you are, I believed it, too. There were many times in my career at Rice when you told me what I needed to hear whether I agreed or not. The further along I go in life and in baseball, the more I realize how right you were. You helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible by pushing me in ways nobody else could.

    The reality of the perfect game is still sinking in and I'm trying to process everything that has happened as a result, but as of now I would rank the feeling I had Saturday second to winning the National Championship. The culmination of a season of hard work within a team environment towards an ultimate goal is the most gratifying moment in sports. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.

    It has taken me a lot longer to get to the big leagues in a meaningful role than I thought it would. The ups and downs have been worth it, and I know it has all been used to make me a better person and pitcher. However, I firmly believe it would have happened sooner if I had you around to challenge me mentally like you did at Rice.

    I know you have been keeping up and pulling for me this whole time and I've been doing the same for you guys. I wish you continued success and can't wait to see the Owls bring home another Championship.

    All my best!

    Philip Humber

    Waiting For a Draft Day Phone Call Pre-ESPN

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    Rice's Earl Cooper recalls a far less glamorous draft day experience as he waited on a call during the 1980 NFL Draft. 

     

    Returning to College Station

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    Rice and Texas A&M will open the 2013 college football season.  Mark it down in ink and make your travel plans now.

     

    For the first time since 1995, two of the original eight schools who created the Southwest Conference in 1915 will return to a place that has seen them create some memorable moments both on, and off the field.... More on that in a minute.

     

    With the shifting sands of conference membership anything but settled, future schedules are a tenuous listing at best. Rick Greenspan and the Rice Athletics administration have sought to turn this uncertainty into opportunity in order to  ensure that the Owls will have at least one road game that can be counted upon to guarantee significant revenue. 

     

    The Aggies game in 2013 and the previously-announced game at Notre Dame in 2014 have addressed this need in the immediate future, and with the topsy-turvy reality of the times, these are but two of the games that are truly locked in.

     

    But those are issues that will remain fluid for an extended period in the future.   Let's get back to reuniting the Aggies and Owls and the return of a matchup that thrilled Owls fans for generations.

     

    The two first met in 1914, and one year later they joined with six other schools to form the Southwest Conference.  Two years later, their fledgling rivalry gave would give the Owls mascot its name.

    sammy rescue002.jpg 

    A group of A&M students kidnapped the large canvas representation of an Owl that was used as Rice's mascot during games. Rice students hired a private detective to locate their taken symbol, and upon discovering its whereabouts, the detective telegraphed back to Houston that "Sammy is fairly well and would like to see his parents at 11 o'clock", the recovery mission was confirmed.

     

    While A&M enjoyed the greater measure of success in the early years, Jess Neely's arrival on campus would mark the dawn of an extended period of dominance by the Owls.

     

    Neely was winless in his first five tries against A&M, but beginning in 1945 he would reel of 10 consecutive wins over the Aggies, as he build Rice into a program that won three conference crowns and was ranked in the final top 20 five times.

     

    Paul "Bear" Bryant ended that skein in 1955 and two years later, he brought a powerful and undisputed #1 team into Rice Stadium for a later November showdown in front of a standing-room only crowd of 73,000.  King Hill would put on all around performance in front of a national audience that he would earn first-team All America honors. It was his extra point kick after the Owls touchdown in the first half that would stand up and deliver on of the most memorable wins in Rice history.

     

     

    Former Houston Chronicle columnist Mickey Herskowitz, a longtime Bryant friend and biographer, recalled in an interview for the "100 Years of Rice Football" documentary how deeply the loss impacted Bryant, even years later when he returned to Houston:

     

     

    In later years, the series again more to the Aggies favor, but the Owls could always be counted upon to deliver a stunning blow, perhaps no more so than in 1973 when Al Conover reached deep in to his bag of special teams tricks and thwarted a spirited Aggie comeback with a kickoff return by Carl Sweirc.

     

     

    Rice's last win in the series came in 1980 when Ray Alborn led the Owls in to College Station and escaped with a 10-6 wins, part of an undefeated SWC road schedule for Rice that year.  In the years that followed, A&M would roll on to win 15 straight to give them their current advantage of 50-27-3.  

     

    Ironically, that streak began in 1981 on the strength of the right arm of Aggies quarterback Gary Kubiak, who threw six touchdown passes to lead A&M to a 51-26 win over Rice.  When the two teams take the field in 2013, Kubiak's son, Klein, will be a senior wide receiver for the Owls.

     

    The last two games between the two were rugged defensive affairs, with A&M winning 7-0 in College Station in 1994 and 17-10 at Rice Stadium in 1995. Such scores are not so common place in the wide open world of 21st century college football.

     

    After nearly 20 years, two foes will get familiar again, at least for one season. Sammy can return to the city that gave him his name and countless generations of Owls will have a moment to recall games of the past.

     

    We've barely scratched the surface of those memories. 

     

    The floor is open for your submissions....

    "Humbest!"

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    After throwing a major league perfect game on April 21, former Rice Owls star Philip Humber presented the Top Ten List on the Late Night David Letterman Show on April 23.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20860043&topic_id=29312742&c_id=mlb


    A Great Alternative

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    The announcement today that the Bayou Bucket will extend at least into the first year of the separation of Rice and Houston into different conferences sets aside for the moment concerns about the immediate future of the series.  The next two games will be played at Reliant Stadium as originally announced last fall, only now the second game will be a nonconference game.

     

    The question in the minds of many Owls fans remains on why the move to Reliant in the first place?  Why give up a game at Rice Stadium, when the Owls have won the last two Buckets played on their home turf?

     

    There's no disputing the facts on paper regarding our record of success against Houston at home in recent times. Rice has won the Bucket four times in the last seven Rice Stadium contests dating back to 1993.  But Rice's record as the home team in the series only improves when you factor in the 10-7 win at Reliant in 2004.

     

    Home games at Rice Stadium have a familiarity to our fans who have a time-honored routine for each game.  There is a comfort level that only comes from being in familiar surroundings and with familiar faces. 

     

    So why make the move?

     

    Simply because Lone Star Sports, whose mission is to produce sporting events at Reliant Stadium of both high interest and quality, made it very clear that they view the Bayou Bucket as a signature event for the City of Houston, an event that is a central component of their buildup to the Meineke Car Care Bowl and to their sports lineup overall.

     

    Moving this one game allows Rice to tap into the promotional muscle and reach that Lone Star has at its disposal.  The game will be promoted inside other events at the stadium, most notably to the sellout crowds at Texans games on Sundays, reaching an audience that far exceeds anything we could do on our own.   When the mission is to reach the largest audience possible to promote Rice Football specifically, as well as the Centennial Celebration of Rice University, it became an easy decision to make.

     

    It allows us to marshall our marketing efforts on our remaining five home games, and part of that effort will include promotional messages inside Reliant during that game.

     

    One of the greatest memories of the 2008 Texas Bowl at Reliant was the number of Houston sports fans who were in the stands that night along with our faithful Owls supporters.  One of the most frustrating aspects of that game was not being able to leverage that momentum towards the future.  To have those same fans in their seats and be able to reach them directly about our remaining home games is another invaluable asset.  

     

    Any reflection upon the fan experience of previous Rice games at Reliant has to be divided into two distinct periods.  There were the early games dating back to our first appearance there in 2002, and then most recent game, which was the 2010 season opener against Texas.  

     

    Those early games were not produced with the same level of commitment or overall marketing power that exists today.  As a fan, in the days before I came to work at Rice, I stood in the heat and long lines while attempting to get into the 2004 Bayou Bucket through one of the few ticket windows that were open. I saw first-hand how many people walked away in frustration and could only be frustrated at an opportunity lost. That won't happen this year, or in 2013.

     

    The 2010 Texas game was heavily marketed, but to a fan base that extended far outside the greater Houston area.   We will benefit from that same promotional clout this time, creating an opening for our fans to invite friends and neighbors to join them at this great event.

     

    We know our season ticket holders have been frustrated to see past home games played at Reliant were not offered as part of their package.   That won't happen these next two years.  Very shortly, our season ticket renewal letters will hit the mail. In them, we detail some exciting offers we are making available to those of you who have been our most devoted supporters, as well as others who want to join us for the 2012 season.

     

    If the 2012 Bucket was the last game of the series and there was no return game there in 2013, the move of this year's game alone would be worth it for all the reasons mentioned above.

     

    But with the added knowledge that our fans will have access to great seats for the game in 2013--rather than the smaller allotments allocated road teams--and Rice Football will tap into Lone Star's promotional energy for a second consecutive year, the positives far outweigh the negatives

     

     

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