HOUSTON -- Top-seeded and 20th-ranked Rice claimed its first Conference USA championship since 2006 and earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament with a 4-1 win against No. 24 Tulsa on Sunday at the John E. Hoff Tennis Courts on the campus of the University of Houston.

Rice jumped to the early lead, claiming the doubles point with two match wins. Tulsa’s No. 1 pair of Samantha Vickers and Isaura Enrique, ranked 21st in the nation, posted an 8-3 win against No. 20 Natalie Beazant and Dominique Harmath.

Rice leveled the doubles competition with an 8-3 win of its own at No. 2 doubles as Katie Gater and Liat Zimmerman topped Michelle Farley and Saana Saarteinen.

The deciding doubles match was tied at six before the Rice duo of Daniela Trigo and Solomiya Zinko broke serve, then closed out Maria Sant’Anna and Renata Kuricova to secure the team point.

The Owls pushed the lead quickly in singles, as Kimberly Anicete was victorious at No. 5 singles 6-1, 6-3 to stake Rice to a 2-0 lead.

No. 70 Dominique Harmath was a 6-2, 6-4, winner at No. 2 singles, giving Rice a 3-0 edge in the team score, before Tulsa’s Michelle Farley got the Golden Hurricane on the board at No. 3 singles with her 7-5, 6-2 win to close the gap to 3-1.

Rice’s No. 4 singles player Katie Gater closed out the match, winning 6-3, 6-4 versus Saana Saarteinen.