Rice athletics produced some memorable moments in 2018. Here’s an overview of how the Owls faired on the court, the field and in the gym over the past year.
The Wayne Graham era at South Main came to an end this year. Graham’s 27-season tenure at Rice included 1,173 wins, 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, seven College World Series appearances and one National Championship in 2003. He owns the best winning percentage in school history (.689). Following the season, new head baseball coach Matt Bragga was introduced as the Owls’ next manager.
Basketball (men’s and women’s)
The men have a roster filled with young players who have fought through growing pains in 2018. The Owls won seven games last season and enter CUSA play with five wins already under their belt.
After making it to the second round of the WNIT last March, the women’s team started strong again in the 2018-2019 season. The squad went 8-3 in non-conference play with one game remaining on Dec. 29 and has aspirations of a CUSA Title and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
2018 was an important year for Rice football. Mike Bloomgren earned his first win regular season win and first conference win as a head coach against Prairie View and Old Dominion, respectively. Owls’ star running back Trevor Cobb was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The team finished the year by signing 17 players during the early signing period including Jake Bailey, a Top 15 recruit in Conference USA.
Tennis (men’s and women’s)
The women’s team earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, dropping a heartbreaker to Texas A&M in the Austin Regional. The men failed to make the NCAA Tournament, but Eric Rutledge and Sumit Sarkar were awarded All-CUSA First Team honors in doubles. Rutledge was named to the first team for singles. Sarkar was named to the second.
The team hung in through a tough 2018 campaign. Needing a tie in their final regular season game to clinch a spot in the CUSA Tournament, Rice topped Charlotte in the finale. The Owls finished the regular season at 4-5-1 before a loss in the conference tournament. There were a couple close calls with a 3-0 shutout of Louisiana Tech marking the top performance of the year.
Rice ended their year with a bang. The Owls finished second out of 31 scoring teams at the CSCAA National Invitational in March. Kaitlyn Swinney broke the school record for the 400-IM at the meet.
It was a banner year for the Owls’ volleyball squad. They set a program-best winning streak, reeling off 15-straight victories on their way to a Conference USA regular season championship. They’d add a CUSA Conference Championship too, thereby securing their fourth NCAA Tournament berth in school history.
Nicole Lennon, Lee Ann Cunningham and Grace Morgan were named to the CUSA First Team while Anota Adekunle and Carly Graham were selected to the CUSA All-Freshman team.