via Conference USA
DENTON, Texas – No. 37 Rice netted its fifth consecutive Conference USA Women’s Tennis title after defeating No. 40 FIU, 4-1 in the championship match Sunday morning at the Waranch Tennis Complex. The title marks the program’s sixth overall, and secures an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
The Owls surged in front early, courtesy of convincing doubles play from the No. 1 and No. 3 spots in the lineup. On court three, Rice’s Savannah Durkin and Katherine Ip took a quick 6-0 victory before the No. 90 nationally-ranked tandem of Lindsey Hodge and Wendy Zhang clinched the doubles point on court one, winning 6-2. When doubles play was halted, FIU’s Ulyana Grib and Maryna Veksler led Alison Ho and Priya Niezgoda 5-2.
The Panthers had a response in singles action, quickly knotting up the score at one after Nina Nagode took her match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2 at the fourth spot. Shortly after, Rice once again gained the advantage as Ip wrapped up action on court two, winning 6-1, 6-2. In a highly competitive matchup at the third position, Zhang willed her way to a 6-4, 6-3 win, pushing the Owls to a 3-1 advantage.
Both teams battled back and forth across the remaining courts for the next half hour, before Durkin captured her match and the title with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 triumph. When play ceased, the ranked battle between FIU’s No. 39 Lazaro and No. 110 Hodge remained close into the third set (4-6, 7-5, 1-3). FIU’s Gabriela Ferreira almost capped off a valiant comeback on court six, trailing 4-0 in the third set and rallying to take a 5-4 lead when the match was completed (0-6, 6-0, 5-4).
The NCAA Women’s Tennis Selection show is set for Tuesday, May 2 and individual selections will be announced the following day via press release. Fans can catch the team selection show on NCAA.com at 4:30 p.m. CT.