by Chuck Pool (email@example.com) -
Sumit Sarkar shook off the loss of a second-set tiebreaker to win Rice’s third three-set match of the day and give the Owls a 4-3 win over LSU at the George R. Brown Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon.
In much the same fashion as when the Owls (3-2) dropped the Tigers (5-3) by a 4-3 score at the GRBTC in 2016, Rice had to overcome the loss of the doubles point and a pair of singles losses to pick up their third win in the last four meetings with LSU.
“LSU came out with more energy in doubles,” Rice head coach Efe Ustundag said. “We preached all week the intensity part was going to be huge in doubles and I was disappointed that we didn’t have that. But, I’m extremely proud of how they responded. They were able to put that point behind them and just went to work.”
The Owls grabbed four of six first sets in singles to put themselves in position for a comeback, but saw LSU close out matches on courts three and six while also extending the Owls in three of the four matches in which they led.
Jacob Eskeland put Rice on the board first with a straight set win over Nikola Samardzic on court five, cutting the deficit to 3-1. Conrad Russell stormed back from a 6-2 loss in his second set to defeat Julian Saborio 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to edge the Owls to within one, leaving the match to be decided in side-by-side action on courts one and two where Sarkar and Eric Rutledge were battling with the Tiger’s Gabor Csonka and Shane Monroe in third sets.
With Rutledge up 4-3 and Sarkar tied 3-3 and receiving serve, the Owls teammates fashioned crucial service breaks moments apart to set the stage for the clinch. Rutledge closed out Monroe first, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to remain undefeated this spring at 5-0 (4-0 at the first position). Sarkar forced a long return from Csonka shortly after to close out the match an even his record at 2-2.
“Very proud of the whole team, fantastic effort and hopefully this can springboard us into a really tough road trip next weekend when we take on Dartmouth and Minnesota,” Ustundag added.