Mizzou tennis knocks off Texas A&M, falls to LSU in weekend matches

No. 17 Texas A&M is the highest-ranked team that Mizzou has beaten in program history.
Maneater File Photo

There was a sense of accomplishment in the voice of first-year coach Colt Gaston after Missouri women’s tennis finished off a weekend of competition at the Mizzou Tennis Complex against two nationally ranked conference opponents in No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 29 Louisiana State.

“We’re not [just] close anymore … we got it done,” Gaston said. “We beat A&M, who is a top-20 team.”

The Tigers took on Texas A&M on Friday and with some more magic from freshman Mackenzy Middlebrooks. Mizzou knocked off the Aggies on the last point of the game, winning the match 4-3.

On Sunday the Tigers welcomed LSU, looking to take down two ranked opponents in one weekend. They were unable to close out the match, failing to capitalize on multiple chances before falling in tough fashion, 4-3.

After winning seven straight doubles points in previous matches, the Tigers’ doubles momentum appears to have stalled as they fell last week to Arkansas, and once again struggled to find their rhythm on Friday against A&M.

The pairing of juniors Brianna Lashway and Clare Raley struggled mightily out of the gate, falling behind 4-1 before stumbling to a 6-2 defeat.

Senior captain Bea Machado Santos and junior Amina Ismail were paired together for the first time this spring after a 6-1 record in the fall. The duo failed to recapture their chemistry, suffering a 6-2 loss.

Gaston explained his decision to make a change in the doubles lineup after the early-season success.

“I think it was mainly our chemistry going into Arkansas,” he said. “I thought we needed to change up some things. I didn’t think it went the way that it should.”

In singles, the Tigers knew they would have to mount a furious comeback. The team got right after it as senior Cassidy Spearman began the rally with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Freshman Tate Schroeder was held in check by her opponent in the first set, but she regained her commanding play in the second, which propelled her to a three-set victory, 6-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Santos could be seen encouraging Schroeder multiple times during her comeback, all while the team captain was locked in a tough battle herself, taking on No. 85 Rutuja Bhosale. Santos eventually prevailed after three sets, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. The victory gave Mizzou a 3-1 lead, suddenly erasing the team’s slow start.

The Aggies wouldn’t go quietly, as they quickly responded with two wins of their own to deadlock the match at three. The Tigers victory hopes rested on the shoulders of Middlebrooks, who already had one match-clinching victory on the season.

It wouldn't be easy for the freshman as she found herself down 4-6, 4-1 midway through the second set. But as the pressure mounted, her play elevated, roaring back to take the second set 7-5 and outlasting her opponent in the third, 6-3. Middlebrooks earned Mizzou the upset victory and sent her teammates into a jubilant frenzy.

Middlebrooks credited her teammates for her comeback victory.

“In the past weeks … we’ve put in the work and we deserve to be here but honestly it was my team cheering me on,” she said.

After their big win Friday, Mizzou was looking to continue their success against LSU. A slow start and failure to capitalize on opportunities down the stretch cost them another down-to-the-wire match as they fell 4-3.

Gaston stuck with the new doubles lineup, and it yielded the same disappointing results. Lashway and Raley showed little improvement from Friday's match; they lost again 6-2.

Spearman and Schroeder kept it close but weren’t able to pull ahead in their matchup, losing by a 6-4 margin.

Gaston commented on his team’s sudden doubles drought following the match.

“We need to make some adjustments there no doubt,” he said. “We’re not satisfied with losing the doubles point.”

After finding themselves in a hole down 2-0, Santos gave the Tigers life by prevailing in a back-and-forth match, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

Mizzou dropped another singles match, putting LSU on the brink of victory up 3-1, but Spearman completed an impressive comeback victory, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Middlebrooks delivered her team a clutch victory for a second straight match as she put her opponent away swiftly, 6-3, 6-4.

With the match tied at three, Ismail battled in her third set after surging ahead to a 4-0 lead. But just one point away from delivering her team the match victory, it all unraveled for the junior. She was unable to close out her opponent, dropping three straight games and ultimately the match.

Missouri will hit the road next weekend for two conference matchups. The Tigers will take on Mississippi State at 3 p.m. Friday and Ole Miss at noon Sunday.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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