Jan. 19, 2013
The Rice men's tennis team had hoped to present new head coach Efe Ustundag with a memorable first coaching victory in their 2013 dual season debut, but 29th ranked Texas Tech held off a strong Rice bid during singles to claim a 4-3 win at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Saturday.
Hoping for a fast start, the Owls saw the doubles point slip away, but they rallied in singles to win four first sets and keep the final outcome in doubt until the final matches of the day.
"It came down to doubles," Ustundag said. "We had quite a few opportunities on all three courts to put away it away, but we didn't play well at key points. At No. 2, we played five deciding points and lost four of them.
"We've got to do a better job in practice to get the team mentally tougher for these situations in the future," Ustundag added.
While the Owls lost 8-6 decisions at No. 2 and 3 doubles, the Owls No. 1 tandem of Jonathan Chang and Peter Frank battled back to win the tie breaker game and take an 8-7 decision. It was the first of three tiebreakers for Chang on the day, who returned to the Jake Hess Stadium Court for a spirited singles battle with the Red Raiders' Vitor Manzini.
Playing in his first career match at No. 1 singles, Chang and Mazini traded service breaks throughout two sets of tennis, with Chang emerging with a 7-6, 7-6 win.
Tech used the momentum of the win in doubles to capture singles wins at No. 2 and No. 6 to move within one point of clinching the match, but Rice mounted a comeback thanks to freshman Tommy Bennett's first career victory at No. 4 and Philipp Seifert's 7-5, 7-5 win at No. 5.
While Chang was moving in on his win at No. 1, the focus of the match was centered at No. 3 where Rice freshman Adam Gustafsson had captured the first set, but could not maintain his momentum and fell in three sets to give the Red Raiders the clinching point.
"Once we lost the doubles point, we knew it was going to be a battle," Ustundag said. "We knew they were better than us in a few spots, Adam had a tough match and it's easy to say that it came down to him, but it's a team competition. It's not one guy who loses it for you." "it's tough to know that it's in your hands and you played well enough most of the time but you come up just a little bit short at the end," Ustundag noted.
The Owls continue their run of nationally-ranked opposition on Monday when they host 11th ranked Mississippi State at Jake Hess on Monday at 1 p.m.
`When we wake up tomorrow morning, we've got to focus on practice and get ready for Mississippi State. With the holiday on Monday, hopefully we'll get some people to come out and watch us take another run at an upset win," Ustundag added.