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Raiders clash with Rice to open C-USA Championship

No. 4 MT, No. 5 Rice square off Friday at 2 p.m. in Tulsa

April 17, 2014 · @MTAthletics

TULSA, Okla. - The Middle Tennessee men's tennis team opens up the 2014 Conference USA Championship on Friday, as the fourth-seeded Blue Raiders take on the No. 5 seed Rice at 2 p.m. at Case Tennis Center.

Middle Tennessee (10-13) and Rice (9-12) both earned first-round byes in the 11-team field, avoiding the opening round of matches on Thursday. The winner will play either Tulsa or the winner of Thursday's showdown between No. 8 Old Dominion and No. 9 Southern Miss.

The Blue Raiders closed out the regular season with a gritty victory, outlasting No. 60 UCF 4-3 on Sunday afternoon at Buck Bouldin Tennis Center. Middle Tennessee, down to five players for singles competition, battled to win the match despite having to default No. 6 singles.

Junior Ettore Zito, ranked No. 97 in the nation in this week's ITA rankings, has anchored the Blue Raiders in singles play with a 13-6 mark, playing 16 of those 19 matches at No. 1. Zito has defeated four ranked opponents in singles play this spring.

Rice has won seven of its last 10 after facing a gauntlet of ranked teams early in the season. The Owls have mixed and matched throughout their singles lineup, with no player in one spot in the lineup in more than 10 of Rice's 21 matches.

Live stats will be available throughout the weekend at conferenceusa.com. C-USA's Championship Central page will have up-to-date scores, stats and information.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.