Jan. 24, 2014
The 22nd Rice women's tennis team will join three other top 25 programs vying for a berth in the 2014 ITA Indoor Nationals when they face the 24th ranked Florida State Seminoles in the opening round of the sixth annual ITA Kickoff Weekend at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center in Austin on Saturday.
The host Texas Longhorns, currently ranked 17th will face 23rd ranked Auburn in the day's first match. Saturday's winners will face off on Sunday to determine which team will move on to Charlottesville, Virginia for the ITA National Indoor Team Championships, February 7-10.
"I think we have if not the deepest, then certainly one of the deepest regions in the country," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "That's great and it's going to be a great early test for our team. I'm excited to see where our team is at this point of the season."
This is the Owls third appearance in the ITA Kickoff Weekend, which began in 2009 when the field for the indoor team event was expanded. Rice is 1-3 all-time in the event, winning its opening match vs. Oklahoma State in 2011. They dropped a 4-2 decision in the opening round in 2013 to Texas Tech.
The Owls and Seminoles met last year in the consolation round of the 2013 Kickoff Weekend with FSU taking a 4-2 decision. Rice took an early lead by grabbing the doubles point, but FSU rebounded to win four of six singles matches.
"Florida State has some of the same players, including their No. 1 and No. 3 singles players, but about half the team is new," Schmidt noted. "We know all three of the teams pretty well, but the bottom line is that it doesn't matter what you might know about an opponent. You have to come prepared to play and do the things we expect daily, which is to come out and play with tennis with passion and discipline. The three other teams are going to do the same things as well. They are very well coached teams," she added.
The plan is for all matches to be played outdoors at UT's Penick-Allison Tennis Center, a place where the Owls tasted victory for the first time in history against the Longhorns last season with a 4-3 win. However the wintery blast that overran Texas may force last minute changes to the venue. But that's something Schmidt feels her team is prepared for.
"Being adaptable is a huge part of being a successful college team, because you won't go through a season without being thrown challenges that you weren't expecting," Schmidt said. "It might be flight changes, weather issues, court changes. It's something as a coach that I've had to learn to handle over the last six years and I think the team has learned that as well. It's made our team stronger to be able to adapt to change and be able to roll with what is thrown at you.
"We'll be prepared to play on any courts and in any circumstances," Schmidt added.