April 23, 2006
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GARLAND, Texas -- Seventh-seeded Rice earns its first league tournament title in school history capturing the 2006 Conference USA Women's Tennis crown with a 4-1 win over host and top-seeded SMU on Sunday at the Garland Tennis Center. The Owls pulled off three consecutive upsets during the four-day tourney over league opponents Marshall, Houston and SMU en route to the title victory and C-USA's automatic bid to the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
"I am at a loss for words," said Rice head coach Roger White. "This is a wonderful thing for both the team and our school. The girls worked hard all year and really deserve the win today. This (victory) has helped elevate our program to the next level. We've struggled in doubles all year, so we told our kids to just pretend we were down 0-1. The team played terrific up and down the courts."
The Rice victory not only marks the first time a seventh-seed has won the championship match, but also the first time a seventh-seed has earned a title match appearance. Last year, the Owls advanced to the championship match of the WAC tournament for the first time in school history.
Rice captured the doubles point with a tough 8-6 win at the top spot. The Mustangs and Owls split at two and three doubles, before senior tandem of Blair DiSesa and Medeja Egic took control for Rice. The pair defeated SMU's Svetlana Kouzmenko and Natalia Bubien 8-6 for the go-ahead point.
At two doubles, Monica Neveklovska and Kristin Reid beat Owls' Kimberley Patenaude and Alanna Rodgers with an 8-3 Mustang victory, while Tiffany Lee and Christine Dao knotted the teams up 2-2. The sophomore duo beat the SMU twin sister pair of Brooke and Halley Rambally, 8-2.
Feeding off of the doubles victory, DiSesa quickly extended the Owls lead, 2-0, with a win over Kouzmenko. DiSesa, who entered the C-USA Championship as the highest-ranked singles player (69th in the latest ITA ranking), needs only two more singles wins to tie fourth-place on Rice's all-time singles victories list.
The teams then split the next two singles matches. Egic defeated Mustang rookie Reid at four singles, 6-2, 6-0, while Halley Rambally took the first and only SMU point of the day with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over freshman Emily Braid at six.
However, it was Rodgers who once again came through for the Owls. The freshman clinched the team match-point at five singles in Friday's quarterfinals win against second-seeded Marshall. Rodgers then came off the courts first in Rice's 4-1 defeat over crosstown rival and third-seeded Houston in the semifinals. The Nassau, Bahamas native decided the championship victory on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Brooke Rambally.
"I have never been more proud of a group of people in my entire life," said DiSesa. "We had a subpar start to the season, but we recovered and today had one of the best matches we've ever played."
The loss breaks a 12-match win streak for the 51st-ranked Mustangs and avenges a 4-3 setback the Owls collected earlier in the season.
Rice 4, #51 SMU 1
1. DiSesa/Egic (RU) def. Kouzmenko/ Bubien (SMU), 8-6
2. Reid/ Neveklovska (SMU) def. Kimberley Patenaude/Rodgers (RU), 8-4
3. Lee/Dao (RU) def. Rambally/Rambally (SMU), 8-2
1. #69 Blair DiSesa (RU) def. Lana Kouzmenko (SMU), 6-3, 6-0
2. Christine Dao (RU) vs. Natalia Bubien (SMU), 3-6, 6-1, 1-3 DNF
3. Tiffany Lee (RU) vs. Georgiana Marta (SMU), 6-1, 1-6, 1-0 DNF
4. Medeja Egic (RU) def. KristenReid (SMU), 6-2, 6-0
* 5. Alanna Rodgers (RU) def. Brooke Rambally (SMU), 6-4, 6-3
6. Halley Rambally (SMU) def. Emily Braid (RU), 6-1, 6-3
Order of Finish: D2, D3, D1, S1, S4, S6, S5