For Missouri women’s tennis, the SEC Tournament was an opportunity to build upon what has already been an impressive turnaround season for the program. Instead, the tournament became the place where the 2017 spring team season ended for the No. 13-seeded Tigers as they fell to the No. 12-seeded Ole Miss Rebels on Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was clear heading into the contest that the Tigers would need to step up their game from their 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Rebels on March 19. The Tigers positioned themselves for success early but failed to capitalize in a back-and-forth match, suffering a 4-2 defeat.
Senior Bea Machado Santos and junior Amina Ismail looked to continue the impressive play that made them the No. 15 pairing in the country during the regular season.
But on Wednesday, that top-15 form was not there. During a time when their team needed a solid performance to set the team up well, the duo struggled mightily, falling behind early 3-1. The veterans made a strong push to level the match but ultimately fell 6-3.
Senior Cassidy Spearman and freshman Mackenzy Middlebrooks exchanged sets with their doubles opponents early, but the match slipped away from them late as they were defeated 6-3.
After dropping the doubles competition, the Tigers would need a couple of nearly flawless singles performances to walk off the courts with a victory.
Ismail was unable to rebound after her disappointing doubles performance. The junior was put away in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 as Ole Miss took a 2-0 match lead.
Spearman was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers, as the senior easily fended off her opponent 6-1, 6-4 in what will most likely be her final match as a Tiger.
Middlebrooks was also able to prevail in yet another tight contest, a position that has now become routine for the freshman. She edged out her opponent 7-5, 6-4 to even the match score at 2-2.
Machado Santos battled hard against Arianne Hartono, the nation’s No. 33-ranked singles player. The Tigers’ captain, however, was ultimately defeated in straight sets 7-5, 7-6.
The loss marks the end of the team’s season, but it still remains open for the team's No. 1 doubles pairing of Machado Santos and Ismail. The pair is in position to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament doubles draw, which will be announced on May 3.
Edited by Eli Lederman | email@example.com