March 16, 2012
Sam Garforth-Bles won his first career match at the No. 1 singles spot to clinch a tense 5-2 win for the Rice Owls over 34th ranked Memphis in the concluding match of the first day of action in the 54th Rice Invitational. In the day's opening match, 63rd ranked Tulane blanked Iowa, 4-0.
Gaforth-Bles survived a taught battle with the Tigers David O'Hare, winning a pair of tie-breakers to clinch the match, while fellow seniors Michael Nuesslein and Christian Saravia each captured their singles matches to provide the Owls with the victory.
"Every year you have a match that is kind of a turning point that turns your season around," Rice head coach Ron Smarr said. " Two years ago, we were 6-8 and one point, then went on a roll and were 28th in the country. This year we've been struggling some, but it was great to win with our lineup today. We had a great effort and it was really great to see our senior step up and provide the leadership we needed," he added.
Saravia and freshman Justin To handed the Owls the match's first point by winning at No. 1 doubles. After Memphis knotted things up with a win at No. 5 singles, Saravia put the Owls back in front with a win at No. 2. A win by Memphis at No. 3 evened the match again, setting the stage for three matches that were decided by razor thin margins.
Nuesslein was extended to three sets before downing Connor Glennon 6-4, 6=7, 6-3. Sophomore Philipp Seifert captured his own first set tie breaker against the Tigers' Leon Nasemann and then hung on to register a 7-5 win in the second set, seconds after Garforth-Bles had clinched the match for Rice.
Day Two action in the Rice Invitational begins at 9 a.m. when conference rivals Memphis and Tulane square off. The Owls will be back on the courts at noon when they face Iowa.