Looking at the 7-2 Razorback Women’s Tennis Program this season, a team that knocked off #9 Oklahoma State to start the month, there is a first-year head coach. Another storyline is a pair from the Natural State from the same family: Tatum and Thea Rice from Hot Springs.
“She’s definitely the most outgoing in our family,” Tatum notes, when describing her younger sister.
This is Thea talking about Tatum…”She’s definitely the nicer one. I’m gonna put that out there.”
Coach Courtney Steinbock describes the Rice Sisters’ personality like this:
“Like their mom says, one is a lover, one is a fighter. You mix the two together and it’s a really good combination. Thea is the fighter, Tatum the lover,” Steinbock said.
As for the Rice Sisters’ brother?
“The loudest fan out here is my brother Tanner. Whenever I’m playing you can hear him and he makes sure the whole crowd is silent,” Thea said.
No disagreement from Tatum:
“He’s the smart one of the family basically. Every time we have a match here, he is the loudest one up there. He’s just an awesome supporter,” Tatum said.
Also up there cheering is the mom, Steinbock mentioned. Tracy Webb Rice, a member of the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Starting Point guard from 1983-87, pacing the program to its first NCAA Tournament Appearance in ’86.
“Whenever we get our intensive rehab done, it’s in the basketball performance center and Dave England, he’s the head, and he was actually my mom’s athletic trainer, as well, so there’s a little history there,” Thea adds.
Tatum and Thea also played basketball at Lakeside High, but tennis won out and two played in higher age brackets growing up.
“It’s weird if we weren’t playing at the same college together because we grew up in the same sports and there’s so much about us that is in common, but there’s so much that makes us like our own. Two different people, ” Thea said.
Best friends pushing each other through any challenging time in such an individual sport.
“Except for doubles which is why doubles is my favorite because I get to talk to people,” Thea said.
“Good thing about college tennis about four courts down is that we can yell for someone like four courts down,” Tatum said. “Now we’re a team,” Thea notes.
On that team, Tatum says Thea offers a great balance. “If she has something to say, she’ll say it, but she’s also the best listener and she weirdly gives the best advice.”
The Razorbacks travel to Los Angeles, California Saturday to face Loyola Marymount at Noon.