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."