HOUSTON, Texas - Top-seeded Rice University women's tennis powered its way through unseasonably blustery conditions to a 4-0 sweep against Old Dominion in Friday's Conference USA Championship quarterfinal round at Houston's John E. Hoff Courts.
Rice picked up the doubles point as the third team, Daniela Trigo and Solomiya Zinko cruised to an 8-3 win to open the tournament. Both the first and second courts went to a tiebreaker before Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath notched a 7-2 tiebreak win to clinch the 2-0 doubles win. The Owls held a 4-2 lead in the tiebreak on Court 2 when the point was decided.
Head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said after the match, "We jumped out to a couple of quick leads, but Old Dominion really stuck with it and kept fighting and really pushed us in the doubles. I was proud to see our team step up in those tiebreakers as we won on Court 1 and had a lead on Court 2. They showed a lot of confidence in a tight situation, which was good. Conditions were tough out here today but I thought both teams fought hard and that's why it was such a close doubles point."
The Owls (18-4) shook off the close call in doubles to dominate the singles matches, winning eight of the nine completed sets.
Katie Gater made quick work of her Monarch (13-9) opponent on Court 4 with a 6-3, 6-0 win to put Rice ahead 2-0.
Beazant then kept the momentum rolling from her tight doubles victory to claim a 6-2, 6-0 win over Diana Ivanova on Court 1.
Just moments later, Kimberly Anicete put the finishing touches on a 6-0, 6-2 win on Court 5 to clinch the 4-0 triumph.
At the time of completion, Harmath trailed 4-1 in the second set on Court 2 after picking up the first set, 6-2, Liat Zimmerman trailed 2-1 in the second set following a 6-3 loss in the opening frame on Court 3 and Zinko held a 6-3, 2-0 lead on Court 6.
Schmidt added, "I told the team that they may not feel great today, but it's about coming out and competing. I told them to take a deep breath. The first round of any tournament is rough, so I told them to take a deep breath (after the doubles point) and go play - do what we've been doing all season. I want them to play our games and compete and they really settled in."
Rice advances to face No. 5 SMU on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the semifinal round. The Mustangs topped No. 4 Tulane, 4-2, on Friday.
1. #43 Natalie Beazant (RICE) def. Diana Ivanova (ODU) 6-2, 6-0
2. #70 Dominique Harmath (RICE) vs. Nikol Hristova (ODU) 6-2, 1-4, unfinished
3. Liat Zimmermann (RICE) vs. Faith Atiso (ODU) 3-6, 1-2, unfinished
4. Katie Gater (RICE) def. Juliana Pires (ODU) 6-3, 6-0
5. Kimberly Anicete (RICE) def. Melissa Esnal Olguin (ODU) 6-0, 6-2
6. Solomiya Zinko (RICE) vs. Nika Khmolovska (ODU) 6-3, 2-0, unfinished
1. #20 Natalie Beazant/Dominique Harmath (RICE) def. Nikol Hristova/Diana Ivanova (ODU) 9-8 (7-2)
2. Liat Zimmermann/Katie Gater (RICE) vs. Juliana Pires/Melissa Esnal Olguin (ODU) 8-8 (4-2), unfinished
3. Solomiya Zinko/Daniela Trigo (RICE) def. Faith Atiso/Nika Khmolovska (ODU) 8-3
No. 9 Old Dominion 13-9
No. 1 Rice 18-4; National ranking #20
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (4,1,5)