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Tennis season draws to a close as Rice advances past North Texas

Tennis season draws to a close as Rice advances past North Texas

Tamuna Kutubidze returns the ball during a doubles match against Oklahoma last season. Colin Mitchell | Senior Staff Photographer

Tennis season draws to a close as Rice advances past North Texas
April 22
16:17 2017

The day was as cold as the final knockout.

The No. 37 nationally ranked Rice Owls officially ended the season for the Mean Green in their own backyard with a 4-0 sweep in the Conference USA tournament semifinals.

Rice will now move on to the championship round where it will face No. 41 Florida International University and contend for their fifth straight conference title.

“I don’t think we’ve had our best day,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “I liked the way we battled, and we didn’t give up. Not getting the doubles point, we knew we were climbing a wall.”

Despite valiant efforts, the Owls were too much for North Texas to handle on nearly all singles and doubles courts.

Not even the dominant tandem of Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze, who went 180 straight days without losing a doubles match, could hold off Rice.

“It was a weird game,” Kononova said. “They both played on the baseline and it was kind of confusing, so we were trying to find different solutions.”

Kononova and Kutubidze’s 6-2 defeat by No. 90 nationally-ranked Lindsey Hodge and Wendy Zhang ended the duo’s school best 17-match win streak at the No. 1 position.

“Phenomenal season,” Lama said. “What they’ve done as sophomores as a doubles team is unheard of really. They’re future is really bright and they still need to develop, but what they’ve done is nothing shy of incredible.”

Even into the singles portion, the Mean Green’s superstars couldn’t quite get on a roll against the Owls.

Kutubidze was the first to drop her match in straight sets. The Georgia native struggled to hit her mark on the edges consistently and wasn’t helped by some controversial call-outs by her opponent.

Playing their final matches in a North Texas uniform, sophomore Laura Arciniegas along with senior Alexis Thoma ended their Mean Green careers on a loss and an unfinished match, respectively.

Thoma will exit North Texas by graduation, while Arciniegas seeks a transfer in order to get more playing time on a different team.

“Alexis’ legacy is what she brings in everyday: heart, soul, everything,” Lama said. “Laura, I’m so proud of her too. The effort that she gave against [Allison] Ho towards the end. She loves this program, we love her, but we wish both of them the very, very best. We’re going to miss both of them.”

Quick Hits:

  • North Texas finishes the season with an 11-12 record. It is only Lama’s fourth time finishing a season with a record below .500 at North Texas.
  • No. 76 Kononova ended her spring season with the second best win percentage in program history (.782) in the No. 1 slot, missing the school record by just .006 percent.
  • Thoma completes her career at North Texas with a 33-47 record in singles and 32-44 in doubles during the spring season.
  • Despite playing through injuries, Kutubidze and Minying Liang both concluded their sophomore campaigns with singles records of 11-9 and 10-6, respectively.

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Cesar Valdes

Cesar Valdes

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