April 24, 2010
The Rice Owls will look to add a new ending to a familiar script when they meet Tulsa for the Conference USA Men's Championship at 12 noon on Sunday at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium. This is the fifth consecutive year that the two schools have met to decide the conference title, with the Golden Hurricane having all four meetings.
"We've been here before but we are ready to change the ending," Rice head coach Ron Smarr said after the 41st ranked Owls (13-10) advanced to the title match with a hard-fought, 4-1 four-hour, battle over UCF. "We had a good, solid win today, but we will need to play much better if we want to beat Tulsa tomorrow."
The Owls overcame a sluggish start and a sloppy ending to down UCF and reach the conference finals for the ninth consecutive year.
"We knew coming in that UCF was a very talented doubles team, who has swept some very good teams in doubles," Smarr said. "They showed that with the way they took it to us right at the start. I was proud of the way we battled through that challenge. We fought hard when we really needed it," he stated.
The 70th ranked Knights (12-8) took the upper hand early, dominating the play in all three doubles matches. Rice's 70th ranked duo of Michael Nuesslein and Christian Saravia were on their heals, down 3-0 at the start before they were able to slow down UCF's Marc Rocafort and Blaze Schwartz and eventually claim the doubles point for Rice with an 8-6 win. Rice's No. 2 doubles team of Bruno Rosa and Isamu Tachibana drew the Owls even with an 8-6 comeback win.
Rosa continued his stellar play when singles action opened, opening up a 2-0 lead for the Owls with a quick 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles over Marc Rocafort. Rosa is unbeaten in his last nine singles matches (seven wins, two matches not completed), with four of his victories coming over ranked opponents. He is now tied for the team lead with 13 wins at singles this year.
The two teams then battled for nearly an hour before another point went on the board. Oscar Podlewski move Rice to the clinching point with a win at No. 4, but UCF then countered with a win at No. 3. Sophomore Christian Saravia brought things to a close in the gathering darkness, closing out Nino Hasandedic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 at No. 6 to put the Owls in contention for their first conference title since they captured the 2004 WAC crown.
"We gave up some leads in singles when we could have closed things out," Smarr said. "We know what we have in store for us tomorrow. Even though we beat them last week, we have to play better to end their conference championship streak."
There is no admission charge for the C-USA Men's Tennis Championship. First serve is set for 12 noon at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium.
#41 Rice 4, #70 UCF 1
1. #29 Bruno Rosa (RICE) def. Marc Rocafort (UCF) 6-2, 6-1
2. Michael Nuesslein (RICE) vs. Brock Sakey (UCF) 7-6 (7-2), 3-3, unfinished
3. Blaze Schwartz (UCF) def. Sam Garforth-Bles (RICE) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
4. Oscar Podlewski (RICE) def. Claudio Romano (UCF) 7-5, 6-3
5. Isamu Tachibana (RICE) vs. Johan Beigart (UCF) 2-6, 6-2, 5-4, unfinished
6. Christian Saravia (RICE) def. Nino Hasandedic (UCF) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
1. #71 Michael Nuesslein/Christian Saravia (RICE) def. Marc Rocafort/Blaze Schwartz (UCF) 8-6
2. Bruno Rosa/Isamu Tachibana (RICE) def. Johan Beigart/Joe Delinks (UCF) 8-6
3. Claudio Romano/Brock Sakey (UCF) def. Dennis Polyakov/Sam Garforth-Bles (RICE) 8-3
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,4,3,6)