April 28, 2015
By Chuck Pool
The Rice women's tennis team will return to a familiar script when they open play in the 2015 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship by facing the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the opening match at 11 a.m. on May 9 at the Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas.
This will be the second consecutive year the Owls have played in the Waco Regional. They defeated Denver to reach their third consecutive Round of 32 last year before seeing their season end in a loss to Baylor.
The Owls, currently ranked 29th, will be making a school-record fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Championship and will enter the Waco Regional as the second seed. Tulsa is currently ranked 46th. The top-seeded and eighth-ranked Baylor Bears will face Northwestern State immediately after the Rice-Tulsa opener. The winners will face off at 2 p.m. on Sunday with the winner earning the right to return to Waco the following week for the NCAA Championship.
This will mark the sixth consecutive year that Rice (16-8) and Tulsa (16-10) have meet in the postseason but the first time they have met in NCAA postseason action.
They faced off for five consecutive years in the Conference USA championship before Tulsa moved on to the American Athletic Conference this year and earned an NCAA berth after upsetting Houston for the AAC title. Rice had dropped nine consecutive matches to Tulsa before breaking through with a win in the 2013 C-USA title match and then came back to repeat that effort last year in Norfolk, Virginia.
The two schools met in the regular season, with Rice winning for the first time at Tulsa since 2005, blanking the Hurricane 4-0 on March 8.
"There will be a lot of familiar faces to be sure," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "We know we're going to have a great match. Tulsa has a great program and we have a lot of history with them and we're excited to play them in the postseason. This is the first time we'll do that in the NCAA Tournament because we've been in the same conference. We know it's going to be a battle."
Rice has faced nine of the 64 teams in the '15 bracket, with wins over LSU, Tulsa and William and Mary.