MU tennis falls to Florida, beats UMKC
After a frustrating stretch, the Tigers were able to take away some optimism.
Mar. 12, 2019
It was a turbulent Sunday for Mizzou tennis (11-5, 0-4 SEC), who couldn’t find a win over SEC opponent Florida (6-5, 3-1 SEC). A win would’ve over the Gators would’ve been the Tigers first conference win in almost two years. Instead, MU would have to settle for a victory over in-state opponent University of Missouri, Kansas City (3-8, 0-0 WAC) and an encouraging performance against UF in its March 10 doubleheader.
Coach Colt Gaston spoke earlier in the year about getting off to the right foot in doubles matches. Prior to the Florida match, Missouri has failed to pick up doubles points in any of its SEC matches. That undesirable streak continued against the Gators, but Mizzou showed a small amount of progress: sophomore Marta Oliveira and freshman Lisa Fukutoku won their doubles match against Marlee Zein and Anastasia Kharitonova, making it the first time the Tigers haven’t been shutout in SEC doubles this season.
“We’re starting to find a little groove,” Gaston said. “ I think the team’s not satisfied, and I think that’s the biggest thing. They’ve got to continue to not be satisfied until we start consistently winning some of these doubles points, or at least having it come down to a certain spot. That’s kind of our goal, to kind of throw it all out there.”
Singles matches were, similarly, an improvement, but not enough for an MU win. Sophomore Ellie Wright defeated Zein 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 as junior Mackenzy Middlebrooks took on Ida Jarlskog in the No. 1 singles spot. The pair went back and forth with Jarlskog pulling out the win 7-5, 6-4. The noise level of a usually reserved crowd at the Mizzou Tennis Complex increased in the second set in anticipation of a Middlebrooks upset.
“I think that the people, like everyone, all of our fans really helped,” Middlebrooks said. “They kind of got into it with me, which definitely really helped. I was really committing going out there, off the start, to playing my game and I think I kind of got away from that.”
Sophomores Serena Nash and Taylor Gruber lost their respective matches, sealing a 4-1 win for Florida.
From there, the team had about 90 minutes to recover and warm up for its 5 p.m. match against UMKC, but that wasn’t a collective concern.
“We’ve really put in the work in practice and in workouts,” Middlebrooks said. “It was good that we bounced back the way that we did.”
Missouri jumped on the Kangaroos out of the gate, with the duos of Middlebrooks and Wright and Oliveira and Fukutoku taking less than 30 minutes each to win and secure the doubles point.
The Tigers then got another quick point in singles, as Fukutoku’s opponent, junior Yana Grechkina, retired after the first set because of an injury. Mizzou took a 2-0 lead.
Gruber once again went the distance in a long match, topping freshman Riddhi Sharma 7-5, 6-3, at one point frustrating Sharma to the point of slamming a ball into the back wall on her side of the Mizzou Tennis Complex.
“I think for me, I just had to focus on the big points more than anything else and taking it one point at a time instead of thinking about how well I was playing or how I wasn’t playing,” she said. “Knowing that it wasn’t really there, so I had to mentally just do whatever I could to win the point.”
MU capped off the day a win from Middlebrooks over Michela Xibilia, 7-5, 6-0.
MU heads on the road to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas on March 15 at 3 p.m. for its next match.
Edited by Adam Cole | email@example.com