Elizabeth Schmidt | Women's Head Coach / Camp Director
In eight seasons at the helm of the Rice women's tennis program, Elizabeth Schmidt has guided the Owls to unprecedented heights.
The Owls enter the 2017 dual season looking to write another chapter in a history that has seen the team become the first Conference USA history to win four consecutive team titles in addition to extending their winning streak in the first round of NCAA competition to five and producing an All-American in singles in three of the last four seasons.
Last year, the Owls defied the odds to become the first team to capture a fourth consecutive crown emerging from a strenuous slate of regular season matches to sweep to the crown by a combined 12-2 score, then adding a 4-1 win over #31 Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Championship. Katherine Ip capped the season with a pair of wins at the NCAA Singles Championship, including an upset of the tournament’s fourth seed in her first match, to join Natalie Beazant (2013 & 2015) as All-Americans under Schmidt.
Her 2015 Owls overcame another rugged early season schedule to rise back into the national top 30 heading into NCAA action in addition to putting a fitting cap on a spectacular opening year for the GRBTC by capturing the Owls first C-USA Women's Tennis title at home when they downed Marshall. He colleagues in the conference honored her for a third consecutive year with their coach of the year award, after she shared the honor in 2012. The 2015 season was capped by senior Natalie Beazant becoming an All-America for the second time in her career.
In 2014, the Owls face a rugged schedule that included defending NCAA champion Stanford, and emerged with a 9-7 mark against ranked teams, including a pair of wins over teams who were ranked in the top 20 at the time of the match. She led the Owls to a second straight finish in the top 20 of the ITA's final poll, ending the year ranked 23rd.
The 2014 season saw a pair of standouts, Dominique Harmath and Kimberly Anicete, who had anchored Schmidt's early recruiting efforts, complete their careers ranked in the Rice career top ten in dual singles wins. However, Schmidt addressed the loss of those two stalwarts by signing a pair of players (Lindsey Hodge and Savannah Durkin) who were ranked by Tennisrecruiting. Net as the 12th best class in the nation.
Schmidt's 2013 team Owls proved that their breakout 2012 season was no fluke, ending Tulsa's three-year reign as Conference USA Champions and earning the program's second automatic bid to the NCAA Tennis Championship. The Owls posted a 20-4 regular season mark, a career-best for Schmidt, including a 10-4 record against ranked opponents.
For her efforts, she was honored by league coaches as the 2013 C-USA Coach of the Year as well as being one of 12 coaches honored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as 2013 Wilson/ITA Regional Coaches of the Year. Schmidt earned the honor for the Texas Region and was one of 12 finalists for the Wilson/ITA National Women's Tennis Coach of the Year award.
Schmidt led the Owls to an 18-9 mark in 2012, earning Rice's first trip the NCAA Championship since 2006 with an at-large berth. The Owls earned their berth in part on reaching the C-USA title match for the first time in 20006 when the earned the league's automatic bid by winning the title.
The Owls then staged a pair of epic wins over two Top 20 programs (#18 Illinois & #16 Ole Miss) to earn a trip to Athens for the Sweet 16 in school history.
Schmidt's Owls have won 114 matches in her first seven seasons, including 44 wins in the last six years over nationally-ranked opposition and five in NCAA Championship competition. They have continued to excel as well in the classroom, consistently posting the best GPA in Conference USA.
In 2011, the Owls closed out the season with a 14-10 record while maintaining a national ranking through an entire season for the first time since 2008.
In 2010, Rice finished with a 14-9 record, which included wins over then #18 Arkansas at home and a thrilling, come-from-behind win on the road vs. then #27 VCU. The Owls finished with a total of six wins over ranked opponents, three at home and three on the road. Of their nine losses, eight came to ranked opponents and all but on came on the road.
Schmidt, who began her coaching career as an assistant at Rice from 2004-06, was named the program's third head coach on August 14, 2008.
In her first season as a head coach, Schmidt led the Owls to a 13-12 and reached the semifinals of the C-USA tournament after posting a pair of wins.
Schmidt returned to Rice, where she began her coaching career in 2006 as an assistant, after two seasons as an assistant at Notre Dame.
The Irish compiled a 50-13 record over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, including a program-best 28-4 mark and NCAA quarterfinal appearance in 2007. The Fighting Irish upended 13 Top-25 programs and ended the season with the No. 7 ranking. In 2008, the Fighting Irish went 22-9 and once again advanced to the NCAA Tournament and its recruiting class received a No. 3 ranking from TennisRecruiting.net.
Schmidt was instrumental in Rice's historic 2005-06 season, as the Owls reeled off three consecutive upsets to win the Conference USA tournament for the program's first-ever league championship. Rice became the first No. 7 seed ever to reach the title match of the C-USA tournament and knocked off top-seeded SMU, ending the Mustangs' 12-match winning streak. That earned Rice its first trip to the NCAA Championship since 1998, and the Owls finished 13-13 overall and ranked 66th in the nation (after peaking at 51st).
Schmidt's first season at Rice saw the Owls go 16-9 - posting the most wins for Rice since 1997 - and crack the national top 30 before reaching the Western Athletic Conference tournament final for the first time ever and finishing ranked 51st.
Rice had several individual standouts during Schmidt's tenure - with four players earning all-conference accolades last season - but none more so than Blair DiSesa, who was the Conference USA Player of the Year and an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American in her final campaign, as well as the first Rice player since 1986 to earn an invitation to the NCAA Singles Championship. She was ranked as high as 31st in the nation.
Schmidt was a standout player at UCLA, earning All-America accolades in doubles in 1996-97 and finishing that season ranked 16th in the nation in partnered play and 38th in singles. She was a two-time participant in the NCAA Singles Championship and an all-Pac-10 selection in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Schmidt helped the Bruins to a pair of second-place finishes in the Pac-10 - matching the best results in program history - and trips to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in 1997 and 2000.
Three times a Pac-10 All-Academic honoree, she graduated with honors in 2000 with a degree in sociology. She was the 2000 women's recipient of the Pac-10 Postgraduate Scholarship, awarded annually to the league's top male and female student-athletes. Schmidt was twice honored with the ITA's Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award and won the regional Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award in 1999. She also completed her master's degree in public administration from the University of Houston in 2006.
Schmidt spent four years playing professionally, peaking at 137th in the WTA world doubles rankings (in 2003) and 380th in singles (in `02). She earned her only career title in the doubles draw of the ITF event in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2001, but also reached six other finals in doubles and advanced to the doubles semifinals a total of 23 times in her career. In 2003, she played in the doubles qualifying at The Championships Wimbledon.
Born Aug. 23, 1977, Schmidt is a native of Austin, Texas, and 1996 graduate of Westlake High School. She was a three-time state singles champion and a Prince All-American during her prep career, helping Westlake to the 1992 team state title. She compiled high school records of 120-6 in singles and 62-4 in doubles and was as high as seventh in doubles and 26th in singles in the USTA national rankings.
Efe Ustundag | Men's Head Coach / Camp Director
Efe Ustundag enters his fifth season leading the Rice men’s tennis program riding a wave of momentum that has returned the Owls to the national top 30 and saw them capture the 2016 Conference USA title.
Ustundag’s 2016 team capped a rebuilding process by posting a 23-8 dual mark, the second most wins by Rice in the dual era, which included the first win over a top 10 opponent in a decade. The Owls rose as high as 26th in the Oracle ITA poll before ending the year ranked 30th, their highest finish since 2010.
In addition, the tandem of Tommy Bennett and David Warren stormed into the national doubles rankings, finishing at 27th (highest ranking since 2006) and becoming the Owls first entries in the NCAA Doubles Championship since 2008. They head into the 2017 dual season ranked ninth in the country.
For his efforts, Ustundag was named the C-USA Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year by his peers while freshman Jake Hansen became the first Owl to be named C-USA Freshman of the Year in men’s tennis.
The sparking 2016 results were hinted at in a bounce-back 2015 campaign that saw the Owls return to the national rankings as they opened the dual campaign in their new home, the George R. Brown Tennis Center.
The Owls closed out the 2015 dual season ranked 54th as well as C-USA runners up, completing a year that also saw them post their first win over a top 20 team since 2009 when they downed #19 Northwestern.
Ustundag assumed the reigns of the program in July on 2012 after being named as Ron Smarr's successor on November 10, 2011 after eight seasons under the Hall of Famer who retired as college tennis' career wins leader.
In eight seasons as Smarr's assistant, Ustundag helped guide the Owls to seven top 50 rankings, seven NCAA berths and produced a qualifier for the NCAA singles championship six times. The Owls also have racked up 29 All-Conference honors during Ustundag's tenure.
A doubles All-America selection at Rice, Ustundag also anchored the Owls singles lineup during his final three seasons and maintained a national NCAA ranking as high as 16th. He was the MVP at the 1996 Team Championships in San Diego.
Ustundag followed that up with Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Scholar Athlete of the Year and Tennis Magazine's Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for sportsmanship and leadership in 1999. He was an All-WAC Singles First-Team selection and All-WAC Doubles Second-Team honoree en route to NCAA Region VI Senior Player of the Year.
He began his coaching career in 2002, serving for two seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant coach and helping lead the Red Raiders advanced to Big 12 Semifinals in 2003.
Ustundag spent two years as a professional player and assistant coach for Enka Tennis Club in his native Turkey. He assisted Ali Gorec, the former Turkish Davis Cup coach, in various administrative and coaching duties.
Ustundag won the national championship in both singles and doubles during 2000, while capturing the national indoor championship in both events in 2001. He also was a member of the Turkish Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2001.
Before attending Rice, Ustundag attended the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida from 1990-93. He was awarded the NBTA Grand Slam award for academics, citizenship and athletics in 1992.
Ustundag graduated from Rice in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in managerial studies and sports management. He makes his home in Houston with wife Suur Biliciler-Ustundag and daughter Ahenk (3).