The Miami men’s tennis team had its share of struggles in five previous matchups against Rice. Perhaps the most painful of all was last year’s 7-0 shutout loss when rain forced the match indoors to the Galleria Tennis Athletic Club in Houston.
But back home on Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center, backed by clear skies and 70 degree sunshine, the Hurricanes finally got it right.
The No. 60 Canes (3-2) started February on a positive note with a 6-1 win over No. 50 Rice (2-2).
“It’s exciting to see that our team is coming together, that our doubles are improving, that the guys are fighting and competing really well for us,” coach Mario Rincon said. “I am really proud of us, where we are now.”
The Canes’ flawless weekend of tennis also included the men’s 6-1 win over UCF this past Friday, and the Miami women’s decisive 7-0 victory over UNF on Saturday.
“We were really positive after the win on Friday,” junior Diego Soto said. “After that the morale of the team was good, everybody was pumped up. We really want to improve our ranking.”
The Hurricanes took the early lead and the doubles point against Rice with wins from second-pair juniors Gabriel Flores and Omar Aly (8-3) and a strong showing from third pair Soto and sophomore Henrique Tsukamoto (8-7).
“We knew that this was a good team, we’ve lost against them the last five years, we knew we had to play good and play together,” Soto said.
Celebrating his 21st birthday, Soto recorded Miami’s first singles point in the No. 1 spot.
He defeated Rice’s Jonathan Chang 6-2, 6-1. Sixth position freshman William Albanese used a dominant second set to win his match 7-5, 6-0 over Leif Berger.
Flores, in the No. 2 singles spot, had little trouble dispatching Adam Gustafsson in straight sets (6-4, 6-1).
Tsukamoto secured his match in a 10-point tiebreaker over Gustavo Gonzalez (6-0, 7-6, 10-7).
In a high-energy, emotional matchup, sophomore Wilfredo Gonzalez clinched the final point of the match over Rice’s Tommy Bennett (6-1, 2-6, 6-4).
Philipp Seifert earned the Owls’ only point in a 6-3, 1-6, 3-2 win over Miami’s Victor Mauz, a senior from Suresnes, France.
“College tennis is very dynamic,” Rincon said. “You are always aware of what’s going on next to you, what’s going on in the other court … the implications your match is having, the implications of the other match on yours and it’s easy to get distracted. We needed to refocus, regain our momentum. These are things we can certainly improve even more.”
The Hurricanes will take on Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday in Coral Gables and will travel to Tampa, Fla., for Sunday’s matchup against the South Florida Bulls.
“I know that we have a lot of room for improvement, I know that every single guy can play better tennis,” Rincon said. “It was great to have a good weekend at home winning against UCF and Rice, two very good, solid teams up and down the lineup. And it’s definitely very rewarding to see the guys close out matches the way they are doing it right now.”