April 17, 2014
An injury-depleted Rice men's tennis team opens play in the 2014 Conference USA Men's Tennis Championship when they take on Middle Tennessee State at the Case Tennis Center in Tulsa Oklahoma.
The Owls (9-12) enter action as the fifth seed in the tournament while the Blue Raiders (10-13) come in as the fourth seed. The schools have split six previous non-conference dual matches, with the Owls taking the last meeting, 4-0 in 2008.
The Last Meeting
|No. 72 Middle Tennessee State||0
March 22, 2008
Jake Hess Tennis Stadium
Rice will sport a juggled lineup due to injuries to junior Leif Berger
and sophomore Tommy Bennett
. Berger, who has teamed with Srikar Alla
to form one of the Owls top two doubles teams, did not make the trip to Tulsa. Bennett, who posted a 4-4 mark at the first line in the singles lineup will be a match-time decision.
Rice head coach Efe Ustundag said if the Owls can build upon their efforts last weekend without Berger and Bennett, they a chance to make a run through the weekend.
"We're excited to get on the court tomorrow after two great days of practice here in Tulsa," Ustundag said. "Middle Tennessee is a tough team and they are much like us. They are dealing with some injuries and will be making some adjustments to their lineup. The match will come down to which team's players step into new roles and meet the challenge."
Rice split matches last weekend, dropping a 7-0 decision at 56th ranked TCU before beating SMU 4-2 on Sunday. Even though the loss to the Horned Frogs goes into the books as a shutout, Ustundag credited the efforts of his top three singles players (Alla, Adam Gustafsson and Max Andrews) for their extended matches on Saturday for sparking the Owls win on Sunday.
"Srikar and Adam each played great tennis on Saturday against ranked opponents and could easily have won their matches. With the way the entire team played on Sunday, I feel pretty good about the top of the lineup. The guys we have playing the last three spots have all shown at times this year they can play winning collegiate tennis. We need them to come out tomorrow and step up."
Ustundag said a final decision on Bennett's status won't be made until they arrive at the courts on Friday, but the coaching staff has prepared for the match assuming he won't be available.
"There's a chance that Tommy could play at least in doubles, but we won't know until tomorrow," Ustundag said. "If he doesn't, we'll have to do some additional juggling and try some different combinations."