Jan. 19, 2014
Rice junior Srikar Alla overcame a 5-2 second set deficit and had placed the Owls on the verge of an upset of 24th ranked LSU until cramps in his legs turned a 4-3 third set lead into tiebreaker loss in a 4-3 loss at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
"A very difficult match to lose, but at the same time I have to be pleased at the way we played today," Rice head coach Efe Ustundag said. "I was confident coming into the match because I thought we matched up well with LSU. We had as good an atmosphere as I can ever remember at Jake Hess and our team played inspired tennis. We took the 24th ranked team to the wire with three freshmen in our lineup and we saw a lot of improvement today from our opener against Texas on Friday," Ustundag said.
As with the opener, the Owls came out fast in doubles, but were also able to carry that momentum through the match can captured the first point of the day.
Adam Gustafsson and Max Andrews ran their record to 2-0 with a second-straight 6-1 win on Court 3, while Leif Berger and Alla were matching their effort on Court 2, downing LSU's 46th ranked pair of Eric Perez and Tam Trinh, 6-1.
After blitzing the doubles, Rice saw LSU take four of six first sets in singles. Sophomores Tommy Bennett (#3 singles) and Adam Gustafsson (#4 singles) did not let their first set wins go to waste, picking up straight set wins.
LSU answered with straight set wins on courts 2 & 6, to cut Rice's lead to 3-2. Freshman David Warren held a lead in his second set on court 5 and appeared to be Rice's best hope for a clinching fourth point, as Alla was down a set and trailing 5-2 in the second set on the stadium court at Jake Hess.
However, as Warren was falling in a second set tiebreaker, the junior transfer from Fordham was staging a rally to the delight of the crowd, forcing a third set with a 7-2 win in his own tiebreaker.
Alla broke LSU's 72nd ranked Chris Simpson at 3-1 and held a 4-3 lead when he first began to experience cramps.
"I noticed his leg was not lifting as much and that probably explained the break he had at 4-3," Ustundag said.
Alla rallied to hold serve at 4-5 and force the deciding tiebreaker. Down 4-1 in the deciding frame, he had to surrender a point in order to take an injury timeout. He was able to hold off Simpson for two points, but then double-faulted on the clinching point.
"I told the team that this type of tennis should be the standard for our play. No one was happy about individual efforts, everyone in that team room was upset that we lost, and that's a good thing. We have to carry the improvement forward next weekend because it is important for us to get a few wins before our first road trip where we will face two more very tough opponents (Texas Tech and Mississippi State)," Ustundag added.