Host Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday
Russell and Sarkar join team in January
NCAA Doubles Championship
Rice vs. Cornell 10 a.m. Friday
Ustundag repeats as Coach of the Year
Rice upset ninth-ranked Texas Tech on March 27
Rice defeated Princeton 4-3 on February 20
Rice downed Louisiana-Lafayette and Incarnate Word on Valentine's Day
The Owls opened the 2016 season by defeating Abilene Christian and Prairie View A&M on January 15.
Rice hosted Old Dominion on January 25.
C-USA Coach of the Year 2016, 2017
Efe Ustundag's fifth season at Rice saw the Owls do something no Rice men's tennis team had done in over 40 years as the Owls successfully defended their Conference USA title, earning Ustundag repeat honors as the C-USA Coach of the Year.
The 2017 Owls not only matched their 2016 counterparts by bringing the C-USA championship trophy back to the George R. Brown Tennis Center, they also matched them by finishing with a 23-8 record, posting the most wins over a two-year stretch (46) in school history in the process.
The back-to-back conference titles were the first for Rice men's tennis since the Owls took five consecutive SWC titles from 1969-72. Additionally, the doubles duo of Tommy Bennett and David Warren qualified for the NCAA Doubles Championship for the second consecutive year, matching the Barker twins (William and Richard) who competed in 2003 and 2004.
Ustundag's 2016 team capped a rebuilding process by posting a 23-8 dual mark, the second most wins by Rice in the dual era, which included the first win over a top 10 opponent in a decade. The Owls rose as high as 26th in the Oracle ITA poll before ending the year ranked 30th, their highest finish since 2010.
In addition, the tandem of Tommy Bennett and David Warren stormed into the national doubles rankings, finishing at 27th (highest ranking since 2006) and becoming the Owls first entries in the NCAA Doubles Championship since 2008.
For his efforts, Ustundag was named the C-USA Men's Tennis Coach of the Year by his peers while freshman Jake Hansen became the first Owl to be named C-USA Freshman of the Year in men's tennis.
The sparking 2016 results were hinted at in a bounce-back 2015 campaign that saw the Owls return to the national rankings as they opened the dual campaign in their new home, the George R. Brown Tennis Center.
The Owls closed out the 2015 dual season ranked 54th as well as C-USA runners up, completing a year that also saw them post their first win over a top 20 team since 2009 when they downed #19 Northwestern.
Ustundag assumed the reigns of the program in July on 2012 after being named as Ron Smarr's successor on November 10, 2011 after eight seasons under the Hall of Famer who retired as college tennis' career wins leader.
In eight seasons as Smarr's assistant, Ustundag helped guide the Owls to seven top 50 rankings, seven NCAA berths and produced a qualifier for the NCAA singles championship six times. The Owls also have racked up 29 All-Conference honors during Ustundag's tenure.
A doubles All-America selection at Rice, Ustundag also anchored the Owls singles lineup during his final three seasons and maintained a national NCAA ranking as high as 16th. He was the MVP at the 1996 Team Championships in San Diego.
Ustundag followed that up with Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Scholar Athlete of the Year and Tennis Magazine's Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for sportsmanship and leadership in 1999. He was an All-WAC Singles First-Team selection and All-WAC Doubles Second-Team honoree en route to NCAA Region VI Senior Player of the Year.
He began his coaching career in 2002, serving for two seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant coach and helping lead the Red Raiders advanced to Big 12 Semifinals in 2003.
Ustundag spent two years as a professional player and assistant coach for Enka Tennis Club in his native Turkey. He assisted Ali Gorec, the former Turkish Davis Cup coach, in various administrative and coaching duties.
Ustundag won the national championship in both singles and doubles during 2000, while capturing the national indoor championship in both events in 2001. He also was a member of the Turkish Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2001.
Before attending Rice, Ustundag attended the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida from 1990-93. He was awarded the NBTA Grand Slam award for academics, citizenship and athletics in 1992.
Ustundag graduated from Rice in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in managerial studies and sports management. He makes his home in Houston with wife Suur Biliciler-Ustundag and daughter Ahenk (3).
|2015-16||23||8||Champions||Round of 64||30|
|2016-17||23||8||Champions||Round of 64||44|