Mizzou tennis rides through highs and lows in ITA Central Regional

Mackenzy Middlebrooks won six straight matches to claim the singles consolation championship.
Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Inconsistency defined Missouri tennis’s play as the team competed in the ITA Central Regional in Lawrence, Kansas, over the weekend.

Sophomore Mackenzy Middlebrooks salvaged a disappointing singles showing for the Tigers by claiming the consolation championship for Missouri.

The team got out to a blistering start on Thursday following a 27-day absence from competition. Missouri swept the doubles competition on the opening day, sending three pairings to the round of 32. The Tigers continued to roll in singles, earning victories in five of their six matches.

Missouri’s fourth-seeded pairing of junior Amina Ismail and freshman Marta Oliveira collected an 8-5 win over Natalia Bravo and Courtney Lubbers of Western Illinois to begin the day. Sophomore Serena Nash and senior Clare Raley closed out the doubles competition with an 8-3 victory over Lara Tupper and Ann-Christine Link of SIUE.

In singles competition, 17th-seeded Ismail advanced in the tournament, beating Elly Hartnett of North Dakota, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Ismail was followed by Oliveira, Raley, Nash and freshman Ellie Wright, who all punched their ticket to the second round.

In day two, the Tigers’ fortunes were reversed. The team continued its success in doubles, advancing two pairings, but dropped five of six singles matches to dampen the day.

Mizzou set the tone early when Nash and Raley stunned the No. 16 pairing of Fatima Bizhukova and Gabriela Porubin from Wichita State 8-6. Ismail and Oliveira survived and advanced with an 8-5 victory over Arkansas’ Natsuho Arakawa and Agne Cepelyte.

But the team’s fortune shifted rapidly as Oliveira, Raley, Ismail, Nash and Wright all suffered defeats in the singles bracket. The five losses came as a crushing blow, erasing all performances from day one and eliminating Missouri from the singles tournament.

Middlebrooks, the only loss from day one of the tournament, became the lone bright spot in day two as she advanced two rounds in the consolation bracket to the round of 16.

Following the day of competition, head coach Colt Gaston cited the team’s failure to perform in crucial moments as the reason the Tigers fell in the singles tournament.

"In singles, we didn't execute on the big points today, and it cost us,” Gaston said in a press release.

Taking two doubles pairings and one conciliation competitor into the third day of competition, Mizzou was fighting to stay alive.

Ismail and Oliveira continued to dominate as they beat the No. 16 pairing of Marina Guinart and Katarina Stresnakova of Oklahoma State 8-4. Nash and Raley joined Ismail and Oliveira in the quarterfinals with an 8-5 win over Karyna Bihel and Camila Vargas Gomez of Minnesota.

Both Tigers pairings ultimately succumbed to defeat in their quarterfinal matches, with the losses eliminating Missouri from the doubles tournament.

While her teammates fell in doubles, Middlebrooks continued her run through the consolation bracket. The sophomore added wins against Anastasia Reimchen of Iowa, 6-3, 6-4 and advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Gisela Kemper of Northern Iowa.

Needing two wins to claim the conciliation tournament championship on Sunday, Middlebrooks, who earned the nickname “clutch Kenz” last year following several decisive match victories, lived up to her title. She took down Minnesota’s Vargas 7-6, 6-3 and Arkansas State’s Berta Masdevall Masip 6-2, 6-1 to claim the consolation championship.

Following the match, Gaston expressed his happiness for Middlebrooks’ tournament run.

"I'm proud of Mackenzy for putting together a nice run to with the backdraw," he said in a press release. "I know she expected a lot for herself going into this tournament, so it was great to see her stay motivated and finish strong today."

The Tigers will close out the fall season at the Norman 25K Pro event beginning Tuesday, Nov. 14 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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