March 17, 2012
Jonathan Chang shook off second set frustrations to produce a powerful third set victory and deliver the clinching point in #64 Rice's 4-1 win over Iowa to wrap up Day Two of the 54th Rice Invitational at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium in Houston. In the day's first match, 34th ranked Memphis bounced 63rd ranked Tulane, 4-0.
Rice head coach Ron Smarr warned his Owls to not underestimate the Hawkeyes, who brought a 1-9 mark into Saturday's match. The Hawkeyes were playing just their second outdoor match of the season and, despite the 4-0 score, their loss to Tulane on Friday morning had been a battle.
"They pushed Tulane hard on Friday. We told them to expect a battle today, and that was shown the way Iowa came out fast in doubles," Smarr noted. "We told them that they would play hard and I think their start got our attention."
Iowa jumped out to leads on all three doubles courts, including a 6-2 lead at No. 1. But the Rice paring of Christian Saravia and Justin To staged a comeback and forced a tie-breaker. Their comeback also inspired similar rallies at No. 2 and No. 3. But even though Iowa rebounded to win the tiebreak at No. 1 and take an 8-6 win at No. 3, the Owls rally had set the stage for a comeback in singles.
"I was pleased with our competitive energy, up and down the lineup," Smarr said. "We responded well in singles."
Rice grabbed the first set in five of six singles matches. Seniors Christian Saravia and Sam Garforth-Bles, along with freshman Leif Berger, carried that momentum into their second sets to capture wins and give Rice a 3-1 lead.
Chang and Philipp Seifert dropped second sets, while Michael Nuesslein rebounded from a frustrating first set to join his teammates in moving to a decisive third set.
With the match hanging in the balance, Chang wasted little time in deflating any Hawkeye hope. He broke Garret Dunn's first two service games to sprint to a 4-0 lead, then held serve his next two games to clinch the match.
Rice his 2-0 after the first two days of their 54th annual invitational, while conference foes Memphis and Tulane are each 1-1 and Iowa is 0-2. Play wraps up on Sunday when Memphis faces Iowa at 9 am, followed by the decisive match of the weekend, Rice vs. Tulane at noon.