Feb. 11, 2012
Jonathan Chang and Christian Saravia led the way as the 36th ranked Rice Owls rebounded from a loss to UTSA earlier in the day to take a 5-1 decision over Abilene Christian at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Saturday.
The Roadrunners shocked the Owls, 4-3 in the day's first match, and despite the fact the Owls were missing two seniors due to illness, Rice head coach Ron Smarr gave UTSA all the credit.
"There's really no excuse, they just out-played us," Smarr said. "Yes, we were missing Michael (Nuesslein) and Sam (Garforth-Bles), but we have enough talent to have been able to overcome that. They are a talented team. They had Tulane beat last week, but let it slip away. Our effort in doubles really set the tone and we never got in gear," he added.
After UTSA swept all three doubles matches, the two squads split the first sets in the six singles matches. Saravia squared things with a straight-set win at #5. However UTSA pushed the Owls to the edge of clinching the match with wins at #1 and #6 before the Owls mounted a comeback of their own.
Philipp Seifert and Chang closed out matches at #3 and #4 to knot the score at 3-3, and junior Peter Frank battled back from a first-set loss to take the second set at #2 and set the stage for a decisive third set. However, UTSA's Tyler Brown raced to a 6-2 win in that set to give the Roadrunners their first win of the year and their first over a ranked opponent since 2007.
The Owls rebounded in the nightcap to down Abilene Christian, 5-1. With both teams having played a match earlier in the day, the format was reversed with singles being played first and the Owls winning five of the six matches to close out the action. Saravia delivered the clinching point with his second win of the afternoon.
The Owls will not be back in action again until February 28 when the face Cal-Irvine and Loyola Marymount on the road before competing in the 123rd West Coast Doubles Championships in La Jolla, California.
Smarr said the Owls will take the time to work on adjustments and also to contemplate the task ahead over the next three months.
"This loss really hurts in terms of rankings and qualifying for the NCAA's, so we know that we have some work ahead of us. (UC) Irvine is a great doubles team. When we get home, we have San Diego here and they are going to be a top 20 team. We've got work to do," Smarr stated.