Missouri tennis can't put away Texas A&M

Missouri couldn't close out Texas A&M after building a 3-1 lead.
Katie Prince / Graphic Designer

Things were looking up for the Missouri tennis team Sunday. Leading 3-1 against Texas A&M, the Tigers found themselves one more singles win away from their most impressive victory of the year. In its last appearance of the regular season, however, Missouri dropped three straight matches en route to a 4-3 loss.

The day began in doubles play, during which the Tigers got out to a productive start. Juniors Mallory Weber and Kaitlyn Ritchie won via the tiebreaker in the No. 1 position, and senior Kristen Bleakley and freshman Andrea Lewis cruised to an 8-5 victory at No. 3.

The Tigers carried the momentum into singles play, during which Weber quickly racked up another victory against Aggies junior Morgan Frank. After Missouri sophomore Jamie Mera lost in the No. 3 singles match, freshman Maria Christensen took the momentum right back for the Tigers with a three-set victory over sophomore Lauren Santacroce.

With a 3-1 lead, the Tigers needed to convert on only one of three remaining opportunities to pull off the upset. Despite being so close, coach Blake Starkey knew his team wasn't out of the woods yet.

"I never thought it was a done deal," Starkey said. "After winning doubles, we knew that we needed to take three singles matches. We had our chances, but we just didn't get the job done."

In the No. 1 singles spot, Ritchie had already won her first set and led 4-2 in the second. Two games away from a two-set victory, her opponent, senior Elzé Potgieter, took control of the match. Potgieter took the second set by a score of 7-5 and went on to claim a 6-2 victory in the third set.

Missouri quickly saw another chance to clinch victory slip away as Bleakley fell to Aggie junior Stephanie Davidson. With the overall score tied at three, all eyes shifted to the No. 5 match between Lewis and junior Christi Liles.

Although Lewis had claimed the first set in a tiebreaker, she quickly found herself losing ground. Lewis trailed Liles all the way through the second set, which Liles won 6-3.

In the decisive third set, Liles got out to another fast start, taking a 3-1 lead. Lewis refused to go down without a fight. Allowing only one point over the next two games, Lewis rallied to tie the score at 3-3. After taking the seventh game of the set to a deuce, Lewis lost two hard-fought points and gave Liles a lead she would never surrender.

Although frustrated with the result of her own match, Lewis couldn't be disappointed with the effort of her team Sunday.

"It's always disappointing to lose, but I put it all out there," Lewis said. "As a team, we were so close and we fought so hard. It was some of the best tennis we've played all year."

The Tigers will look to recover in the postseason this weekend as they head to Austin, Texas, for the Big 12 Championships. Despite the loss against the Aggies, Lewis believes the team will have a positive attitude moving forward.

"We really have nothing to lose, which is a good mindset to have," Lewis said. "We're just going to let the past be the past and fight."

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