Sept. 21, 2012
Four members of the Rice men's tennis team will be back in action this weekend when they compete in the 12th annual Baylor HEB Intercollegiate Friday-Sunday at the Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas.
Three of the four Owls, sophomore Phillip Seifert and freshman Gustavo Gonzales and Adam Gustafsson will be making their fall debuts, while sophomore Leif Berger made his season debut last week at the Midland Invitational.
Owls head coach Efe Ustundag, who steps into the role this fall after taking over for retiring Hall of Famer Ron Smarr, has divided the squad for the first two tournaments of the year as preparation for next weekend's Rice Fall Invitational as well as to provide a chance for the new staff members and players to familiarize themselves with the returning players.
"While we've had the chance to work individually with the players since school began, we only were able to have full team activities since last week. Sending Bojan (new assistant coach Bojan Szumanski) with them on the road gives him a chance to get to know them and their playing styles.
"We have three targeted team events, starting with our invitational next weekend. These other tournaments give the newer player a chance to adjust to tennis at the collegiate level and allow us to look at some different combinations for doubles," Ustundag added.
"The jelling of the team has been fairly quick. The new players have come in with a great attitude and really want to excel in all phases, and that earned the respect of the older guys. When we were recruiting them, we were looking for players who would come in and play hard and want to make a contribution right off the bat," he said.
The Owls opened their fall season last weekend at The Racquet Club Invitational in Midland, Texas. Senior Jonathan Chang reached the semifinals with wins over Max Stevens of TCU, Jacoby Lewis of Texas and Victor Manzini of Texas Tech before falling to eventual champions Arnau Dachs of TCU, 7-6, 6-3.
Incoming freshman Tommy Bennett won his first collegiate singles match, downing Tassilo Schmidt of Tyler JC, 6-4, 6-3, before falling to Joey Swaysland of Texas in three sets (4-6, 6-3, 6-4).
Senior Peter Frank finished last weekend 1-2 last weekend, while Berger was 0-2 in singles. In doubles, both Rice duos dropped (Bennett and Chang; Berger and Frank) 9-7 decisions in their only matches.
"We really didn't have any great expectations last week other than to see them go out and represent Rice well by playing hard," Ustundag said. "It was good to get a read on them and see what we need to concentrate on the rest of the fall.
"The goal of the fall is to position ourselves to play our best at the regional tournament (Texas Regional Championship in Ft. Worth, October 20-23). We will be playing against the best in Texas and that's where all the spring rankings will be determined."