Jan. 27, 2013
The Rice men's tennis team bounced back from a pair of rough opening week losses to present head coach Efe Ustundag with his first career dual coaching victories by sweeping Lamar and Texas-Pan American by identical 7-0 scores on Sunday.
"I hadn't thought about it until someone mentioned it to me," Ustundag. "For me I thought the really big one was the first match (vs. Texas Tech). But it felt good, but that was more because we played very well in both matches."
Ustundag had been pleased by the way his team had attacked practice during the week after the two losses to top 30 teams to open the year.
We addressed a lot of the issues that we struggled with last weekend in practice this week," Ustundag noted. "I felt we had shown improvement from the Tech match when we played Mississippi State, even if they score didn't seem to indicate it. "
Any questions he might have had about whether the practices would transfer into the dual action were quickly answered as the Owls broke sharply against Lamar in the day's first match. They captured the doubles point with wins at 2 and 3 and carried that momentum over into singles, racing to straight set wins in all six singles matches.
Freshman Gustavo Gonzalez made his Rice dual debut a successful one, teaming with junior Philipp Seifert to clinch the doubles point with a win at 3, then added a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles. Fellow freshmen Tommy Bennett and Adam Gustafsson provided the first doubles win and added singles wins as well.
In the second half of the doubleheader, the Owls had to shake off some early lethargy to face a strong challenge in doubles by the Broncos. Bennett and Gustafsson fought back from early trouble to win at 2, but UTPA struck back with a win at 1 to leave it up to Gonzalez and Seifert to clinch their second consecutive doubles point of the day. After trailing 7-6, the pair forced a tiebreak, then grabbed the point with a 7-1 in the deciding game.
The doubles effort by the Broncos forced the Owls to regain their focus and they responded with a fast start that was only slowed by an afternoon rain shower that forced the match to be suspended and moved indoors at the Downtown Club at the Met.
Once indoors, the Owls picked up where they left off, racing to straight set wins in all six matches.
"What we wanted to get out of this weekend was taking the next step and continuing the improvement we showed vs. Mississippi State," Ustundag said. "Winning both matches 7-0 was really the only way to go about it as we prepare for Miami next weekend and for the rest of the year. "
The 0wls will hit the road for the first time in 2013 next weekend when they travel to Coral Gables, Florida to face the University of Miami next Sunday. They will be back on the Jake Hess courts on February 7 when they welcome Texas A&M to campus.