April 21, 2012
Peter Frank ended one personal streak and in doing so kept Rice's chances for extending another alive, providing the clinching victory in a tense 4-3 win over SMU in the quarterfinals of the 2012 C-USA Men's Tennis Championship at the UCF Tennis Complex on Saturday.
Frank, who has battled a series of nagging injuries throughout the year and had not won a singles match since he picked up wins in both parts of a doubleheader match on February 5, outlasted SMU's Joseph Hattrup in a tense first set, winning the tiebreaker 7-4, then took the second set 6-2 to move the Owls in to the semifinals against second-seeded Memphis on Sunday. The win also kept alive the Owls drive for a 10th consecutive NCAA berth in Hall of Fame coach Ron Smarr's final season.
"I really haven't been playing that badly in my recent matches, but I wasn't finishing them," Frank said. "I could tell by the way my teammates were cheering that it was very close and I knew that it was coming down to my match. Even though the first set was tight, I felt very confident going into the second set."
"We had some guys today who really stepped up when they had to," Smarr said. "We had a reverse in doubles from the regular season to our favor, but in singles our guys who had won the last time were losing today. I'm proud of the way Jonathan, Philipp and Peter responded to the challenge," Smarr added.
After sitting through a lengthy rain delay that eventual washed out their match on Friday, the Owls and Mustangs hit the UCF courts early on Saturday morning. Unlike their regular season matchup when the Owls dropped the doubles point, Rice grabbed the match's early lead thanks to an 8-5 win on the No. 3 doubles court by Sam Garforth-Bles and Leif Berger.
However, SMU took the lead with singles wins on No. 2 and No. 3. Jonathan Chang evened the match with a win at No. 4, but the Mustangs re-took the lead with a win at No. 1, shifting the focus on to the final two matches at 5 & 6.
Sophomore Philipp Seifert continued his late-season surge by winning his fifth consecutive match to tie the score again, and set the stage for Frank's clinching moment.
"There is nothing like tough matches to make you a better player," Smarr said. "We needed a team effort today and we got one."
The Owls will face second-seeded Memphis on Sunday with a berth in the finals on the line. Rice downed the Tigers 5-2 in March at the Rice Invitational in a match at that was far tougher than the score would indicate as three of the five singles matches were extended to three sets.
The Owls hopes for a 10th NCAA berth may well have been hurt by upsets in other conference tournaments this weekend, but Smarr said the focus right now is solely on the rematch with the Tigers.
"We had a tough, tough match with them the last time. We know what to expect. We'll get our rest and be ready to go tomorrow."
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