May 24, 2012
Rice's Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath found a way to add one more historical moment to a magical season of women's tennis, becoming the first doubles team in school history to win a match in the NCAA Women's Doubles Championship, downing Alabama's 41st ranked pair of Antonia Foehse and Mary Anne Macfarlane6-1, 6-4 in Athens, Georgia on Thursday.
The win was the first for the Owls after dropping opening matches in 1984, 1986 and 1998. In their last year of competition in the AIAW in 1982, Rice's doubles team of Tracie Blumentritt and Susan Rudd captured the doubles national title.
"We played a very solid match today," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "We jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then we had an injury delay. Sometimes it's hard to maintain your focus when you have a delay like that, but we kept our focus and were able to maintain our level of play after we resumed."
Foehse and Mcfarlane were a late substitution for a Clemson doubles team that was forced to withdraw due to illness, but Schmidt did not have to scramble for a scouting report, since Rice and Alabama had met in a dual match earlier this season. Even though Foehse and Mcfarlane played No. 2 doubles during the season for the Crimson Tide and did not face Beazant and Harmath, the Owls duo knew what to expect.
"It always helps to know a little about your opponent, but no matter what we had seen back in February, I knew that Alabama historically has always played aggressive doubles. I knew we had to be ready for a tough match," Schmidt noted.
For Beazant, the match was a chance to bounce back from a rugged 6-4., 6-4 loss in singles to UCLA's Robin Anderson earlier in the day, while Harmath was finally returning to the court for the first time since the Owls loss in the Sweet 16 last Thursday. Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt praised both her players for their approach to the match.
"I was really proud of the way Natalie bounced back from the singles match and came out ready to play in doubles," Schmidt said. "She really fought hard against Anderson, but there is a reason she's the fourth ranked player in the country. At the same time, Natalie never backed down and the two of them played as high level match as I saw on any court today. Natalie has had such a great year, but everyone made it here (to Athens) for a reason. There are great players on every court," Schmidt stated.
"Dominique has been sitting here all week and having to watch other people play. That's never an easy thing and sometimes that can lead you to play out of control when you finally get on the court. But she played very, very focused from the first serve," Schmidt concluded.
With the win, the Owls tandem earned the right to face the tournament's second seed, Nicole Gibbs and Mallory Burdette of Stanford at 3:30 (Eastern). Burdette combined with Hilary Barte to win the 2011 NCAA Doubles title.
"That's why you want to come to the NCAA Championships. You want to be tested against the best players in the game. This certainly will be a great test, but every match we play will make us that much better in the future," Schmidt stated.