March 16, 2013
After letting a number of ranked opponents wriggle free when an upset was within their grasp, the Rice men's tennis team fought off early disappointment and rebounded with their best singles effort of the spring to down 33rd ranked Oregon, 4-1 on the second day of the 55th Rice Invitational at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium.
The Owls will look to capture the Rice Invitational title for the sixth consecutive year when they take on 53rd ranked Texas A&M Corpus Christi at noon on Sunday. The Islanders (8-6) defeated Radford, 4-0 on Saturday morning.
The two teams split doubles matches on 1 and 3, with the Ducks taking advantage of some service errors by the Owls on 2 to take the point. Rice rallied behind the strong play of Philipp Seifert, Adam Gustafsson and Peter Frank to build a 3-1 lead, then saw Jonthan Chang fend off the challenge of the Duck's 6-8 Jeff Mullen on the stadium court to clinch the match with 6-4, 7-5 win.
"We found ourselves in the team room after doubles thinking `here we go again, losing the doubles point at home'. But this was the most complete match we played all season, from 1 through 6 in singles," Rice head coach Efe Ustundag said. "Everybody played and everybody played hard.
"Philipp really found his stride today which was huge," Ustundag noted. "Adam played a flawless match and Peter has found some success lately after a rocky start this year. Jonathan Chang bounced back from a frustrating match yesterday to come back and clinch the match for us."
The Owls had fallen from their preseason ranking thanks in part to losing four matches this year to ranked opponents by 4-3 scores. Overall, all eight of the Owls losses have come against ranked opponents and Rice's hopes for returning to the rankings were pinned to winning in the few remaining matches vs. ranked opponents. However, Ustundag said that the recent success of both the Ducks and the Islanders would allow the Rice Invitational to provide another chance to make a move.
"We've had a lot of tough 4-3 losses in the beginning of the year and we were thinking that the opportunities to get wins against ranked teams and get back into the rankings were coming to an end. But when the rankings came out a few weeks ago and Oregon and Texas A&M Corpus Christi were moving up, we realized we had another opportunity. "
The Owls won for the first time this season after losing the doubles point and chalked up their first win over a ranked opponent after losing doubles since they rallied to beat Tulane on the final day of the 2012 Rice Invitational.
"Just a little more of that Rice Invite magic," Ustundag said. "But we will need to find another spark tomorrow."