May 25, 2012
Stanford's second-ranked doubles team of Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs showed little lingering effects from their morning singles matches, downing Rice's Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships in Athens, Georgia on Friday.
"We never could get anything going, but that's as much a tribute to Stanford as it's something we didn't do," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "That's why they are the second-ranked team in the country. They had an answer for everything we tried and we were never really able to put any consistent pressure on them."
Playing in steamy 92-degree heat after both advancing to the singles quarterfinals earlier in the day, Burdette and Gibbs team played a consistent match, never breaking serve in either set. Twice in the opening set, the Owls held a 40-0 lead on a Stanford service game, only to see the Cardinal rebound to take the point.
"We were never able to see if we could use (the morning matches) to our advantage," Schmidt said. "We could never push them deep into games to see if the heat might start to have an impact."
The Cardinal broke fast, breaking Harmath's opening game serve to take a quick lead they never relinquished in the first set. Rice held serve in the opening game of the second set, but Stanford broke the Owls second service game and never lost the lead in set two.
"Burdette is such a great doubles player. She won it last year and that experience really showed," Schmidt noted.
The loss brought a memorable 2012 spring season to a close for the Owls, who enjoyed their most successful NCAA championship in school history. The Owls (18-9) won their first two matches in school history to earn their first berth in the Sweet 16. Beazant won the Owls first singles match in the NCAA tournament since 1986 and then combined with Harmath to post the school's first-ever win in NCAA doubles play.
"Sometimes in the course of a season, it's easy to lose sight of what you have accomplished. I know everyone on the team is going to enjoy the time off to reflect upon this past year and they all have so much to be proud of," Schmidt said.
"We made great strides as a team, and that's reflected in the fact we won our way into the Sweet 16. That is something every member of the team made happen. They can always be proud of being the first Rice team to win matches in the NCAA tournament. We had Natalie and Dominique reach another first for our program, winning a doubles match for the first time. And Natalie won our first singles match in 26 years.
"Collectively, we accomplished some great things this year. A lot of people came together and achieve great things. We can take a little time to enjoy this year. But then it will be time to start building on the momentum we created this year and make 2013 an even greater year for Rice Tennis," Schmidt concluded.