The 20th ranked Rice women's tennis team will open their pursuit of a second consecutive berth in the Sweet 16 when they face the Wave of Pepperdine in the opening match of the Stanford Regional of the 2013 NCAA Women's Tennis Championship in Palo Alto, California.
Rice and 62nd ranked Pepperdine will open regional play when they face of at 11 a.m. (Pacific) at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. Host Stanford, currently ranked 12th, and Miami (OH) face on in the second match with the winners meeting on Saturday at 1 p.m. to play for a spot in the Round of 16 which will be held at the University of Illinois, May 16-27.
Rice (20-4) won Conference USA's automatic bid after capturing the C-USA title on April 21. They were one of three C-USA teams to make the field of 64, joining runner-up Tulsa and Memphis, who is making its first appearance in the NCAA Women's Championship.
Unlike 2013, her Owls were on the bubble heading into the selection show, Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt and her team had the peace of mind that came with owning the C-USA automatic bid as the result of their conference triumph.
"We were pretty relaxed. We were kind of wondering if we might host or not," Schmidt said. "We're real excited to be going out to the West Coast and playing in a great regional at Stanford. I think we're ready for it."
Rice sophomore Natalie Beazant, who carries a 15-match winning streak while playing at No. 1 singles agreed that the lead up to the selection announcement was not as stressful as in her freshman year.
"The fact that we had the automatic bid made it less stressful, but we felt like we had a solid enough record that it made it easier playing in the conference championship knowing we had that as a backup. "
Rice is 1-3 all-time against Pepperdine, including a 5-2 loss in the last meeting in 2010 in Malibu.
"We know some of their players because they were at the Midland Invitational in the fall," Schmidt noted. "I know their coach (Aberto Escudero, who is completing his 36th year as head coach) " I played a lot of matches against his teams when I was at UCLA. He's a great guy and a good coach and we're excited about the opportunity to play them.
Last year the Owls won their first matches in school history at the NCAA Championship, upsetting 18th ranked Illinois, 4-3, and host and 16th ranked Ole Miss 4-2.
"The experience we had last year was huge," Schmidt stated. "Now it's not our first time ever playing at the NCAA Tournament. We're excited to be back there and any past experience you have will help you in the future."