March 2, 2013
Liat Zimmermann rifled a forehand past Texas' Noel Scott to complete a historic day of tennis in Austin as the Rice women's tennis team defeated the 29th ranked Longhorns for the first time in school history, 4-3 at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center on Saturday. The match was broadcast live by the Longhorn Network.
Zimmermann's clinching shot gave her a three-set win in her first appearance of the season in the No. 3 singles position and provided the clinching victory for the 34th ranked Owls (8-4), who came into the match winless in 24 previous outings against Texas (3-5).
"This was a tough, hard match in challenging conditions, and I was proud how everyone on the team performed today," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "To win here today means a lot, not only to the players on the team and how it impacts this season, but when we learned it was the first time we had ever beaten Texas, I know how much it means to everyone who has played for the Owls," she added.
The Owls jumped to an early lead on the strength of sophomore Natalie Beazant's strong play then had to withstand a furious Longhorn rally before turning it over to a pair of matches at opposite ends of the courts to earn their milestone victory.
With temperatures hovering in the 50's and steady north wind adding to the challenge, the Owls were able to use their previous slate of outdoor matches to their advantage.
"It was a tough day to play tennis, but I told our team they had played outdoors enough to fight through it. They really showed their toughness to adjust to the conditions they way they did and play so well," Schmidt stated.
While the two teams attempted to adjust to the conditions, Texas raced to an 8-1 win on Court 2, but Rice's No. 3 team of Solomiya Zinko and Daniela Trigo answered with an 8-3 win of their own, their sixth win in seven matches since taking over the No. 3 spot in the order.
"It's been a treat to see how Solo and Danni have developed as a doubles team over the last several weeks. They played a great set of doubles from start to finish and delivered just what we needed," Schmidt noted.
Beazant and Dominique Harmath completed the drive to the doubles point, shaking off an early service break with a pair of late breaks of their own to shock Texas' 12th ranked duo of Breaunna Addison and Noel Scott, 9-7 and grab the initial point of the match. It was the duo's sixth consecutive win to run their season dual record to 10-2. Addison and Scott were the highest ranked doubles team Beazant and Harmath have defeated together in their two years of playing doubles.
Beazant carried her momentum over to singles, where she raced past Texas' two-time All America Aeriel Ellis 6-3, 6-1. It was Beazant's sixth consecutive singles win. Beazant has won her last four matches in straight sets and has won 48 of 57 games in those sets.
"Natalie is playing great tennis right now, and to see her handle a player of the caliber Ellis the way she did was ridiculous," Schmidt said. "It was so important for us to build on the momentum we had from the doubles point and Natalie's effort was huge especially because of how Texas responded."
The Longhorns answered with wins on courts 5, 4 and 2 to take a 3-2 lead, leaving the outcome in the hands of sophomore Zimmerman on Court 3 and freshman Zikno on court 6, which were located on each end of the tennis facility.
"I was down with Solo on Court 6, so I really couldn't see the scoreboard to know what was going on with Liat at the other end," Schmidt said. "There were people in the stands trying to give us an update, but it was hard to know for sure."
Zimmermann raced to a win in the first set over Noel Scott, but the Texas sophomore responded with a 6-0 win in the second set and held serve to open the third. At the same time their second set was ending, Zinko and UT's Juliana Gajic were wrapping up their first set in with Zinko emerging with a 7-5 win.
"Solo asked me what the team score was late in the match, and when I told her, she told me she was nervous," Schmidt said. "As a freshman, the hardest adjustment you have to make is the team aspect of college tennis. I talked to her for a bit and she fought through her nerves. She did a tremendous job of closing out a match as a freshman."
Zimmermann broke out to a 4-2 lead in her third set was in the process of fighting off four break points for Scott as Zinko was closing out a 6-4 win in the second set to knot the match at 3-3. She eventually held serve at 5-2, but Scott rallied to close within 5-4, setting up the final game.
"Liat did a fabulous job of handling the pressure at the end of the match," Schmidt said. "She answered the challenge at the end when all the eyes were on her even when Scott came back to cut the lead to 5-4."
The Owls will have a week off to savor their milestone win. They will host Texas State at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium on Sunday, March 10 at 11 a.m.
"We've come so close to beating some very good teams this year and at times it has been frustrating. My message to the team was to keep believing, and that was the key to how we competed today," Schmidt concluded.
Rice vs. Texas
3/2/2013 at Austin, TX
(Penick-Allison Tennis Center)
#34 Rice 4, #29 Texas
1. #71 Natalie Beazant (RICE) def. #28 Aeriel Ellis (TEXAS) 6-3, 6-1
2. #35 Breaunna Addison (TEXAS) def. #80 Dominique Harmath (RICE) 6-4, 6-2
3. Liat Zimmermann (RICE) def. Noel Scott (TEXAS) 6-3, 0-6, 6-4
4. Elizabeth Begley (TEXAS) def. Katie Gater (RICE) 6-4, 6-2
5. Lina Padegimaite (TEXAS) def. Kimberly Anicete (RICE) 6-1, 6-3
6. Solomiya Zinko (RICE) def. Juliana Gajic (TEXAS) 7-5, 6-4
1. Natalie Beazant/Dominique Harmath (RICE) def. #12 Breaunna Addison/Noel Scott (TEXAS) 9-7
2. Elizabeth Begley/Aeriel Ellis (TEXAS) def. Liat Zimmermann/Stephanie Nguyen (RICE) 8-1
3. Daniela Trigo/Solomiya Zinko (RICE) def. Lina Padegimaite/Lana Groenvynck (TEXAS) 8-3
Rice 8-4; National ranking #34
Texas 3-5; National ranking #29
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (1,5,4,2,6,3)