Bennett wins in three sets
Bulldogs Hold Off Owls’ Challenge
After a close loss to 29th ranked Texas Tech to open the dual season on Saturday, Efe Ustundag’s Rice men’s tennis team were faced with an even tougher challenge on Monday when they welcomed 11th ranked Mississippi State to Jake Hess Tennis Stadium.
After nearly four hours of tennis, the Bulldogs had run their season record to 2-0 with a 6-1 win, but Ustundag saw many positives in the dual.
“I feel better after this one than I did after the Tech match.” Ustundag stated. “We fought hard. We played with great energy and showed a lot of character in the face of some pretty stiff competition. We couldn’t get the early momentum in doubles, but I liked the way we rebounded in singles and went toe-to-toe with them for every point. Mississippi State really attacked us early, but we didn’t fold.”
Freshmen Tommy Bennett and Adam Gustafsson, who saw a lead in doubles slip away at a crucial time vs. Tech, posted an 8-6 win in doubles. Bennett then ran his spring record to 2-0 by winning in three sets at No. 4 singles to score the Owls’ point in the match. Gustafsson battled to a tiebreaker in his second set before falling at No. 3 singles, and Ustundag was pleased with the way his newest players performed.
“It’s good to see our younger players bouncing back from adversity and playing hard. I had some people coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the way they played in doubles. They bring a great energy to the court each time.”
The Owls dropped the first set in each singles match, but Bennett and senior Jonathan Chang both extended their matches to three sets. Chang extended the Bulldogs’ 25th ranked Romain Bogaerts to three sets by shaking off a first set loss to take the second, 6-1. Bogaerts regained his momentum in the third to win 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
“Jonathan played a high quality match against a very tough opponent. He played a tremendous second set, but I think he get a little mentally fatigued in the third set. He’s really embraced the role of playing at No. 1 and gave us two great efforts this weekend,” Ustundag added.
The Owls will be back on the Jake Hess courts on Sunday when they host a doubleheader with Lamar and Texas Pan American, starting at 11 a.m.