Mizzou tennis struggles in pair of weekend matches

The Tigers dropped two tough matches on their SEC trip through Mississippi.
Seniors Bea Machado Santos and Cassidy Spearman shake hands with Louisiana Tech doubles team.

No. 42 Missouri women's tennis came into this weekend looking to solidify its standing in the Southeastern Conference with a trip through Mississippi visiting two ranked conference opponents.

On Friday, Missouri was in Starkville to take on No. 41 Mississippi State, and on Sunday, the team traveled to Oxford to take on No. 25 Ole Miss.

To say the weekend was a disappointment would be an understatement. The Tigers struggled on Friday, getting swept 4-0 and on Sunday failed to capitalize as they were swept in singles matches, losing 4-1.

From the first serve on Friday, Mizzou lacked the urgency and consistency needed to knock off a ranked conference opponent.

The Tigers dropped the doubles point for a third straight match. It was never close for Mizzou as the No. 1 pairing of senior Bea Machado Santos and junior Amina Ismail were out of sync from the start, falling 6-2.

The pairing of freshman Tate Schroeder and senior Cassidy Spearman didn’t fare any better, losing 6-2.

In singles, it was the freshmen who fought to get the Tigers back into the match. The upperclassmen struggled mightily, leading to the abrupt defeat.

Schroeder and fellow freshman Mackenzy Middlebrooks were both in the midst of close competition when their matches were ended as Mississippi State clinched the win.

Machado Santos took her second straight singles loss in a 6-0, 6-1 defeat, and Spearman was unable to put up much of a fight, as she was also defeated in straight sets 6-1, 6-1.

The match concluded with a 6-1, 6-3 loss by junior Clare Raley.

After a dismal performance on Friday, the Tigers were looking to rebound Sunday against Ole Miss.

Mizzou was locked in early, as the team was able to claim the doubles point, snapping their four-match doubles losing streak.

Machado Santos and Ismail pulled off an upset, defeating the nation's No. 33-ranked pairing 6-3. The victory was the duo's first against a ranked opponent.

Spearman and Schroeder looked to take advantage of their teammates’ upset win. After a late rally from Mississippi State, Spearman and Schroeder closed out the match, 7-5.

After assertive doubles play, the Tigers looked poised to end the weekend on a high note, but Ole Miss would not go quietly and responded in singles.

The Rebels went on an all-out blitz to start singles competition and quickly took the lead in four of the six matches.

Following losses by Ismail, Machado Santos and Raley, the Rebels took a 3-1-match lead. Despite the deficit, things still appeared optimistic for Mizzou as Schroeder led her match 6-4, 5-3. Middlebrooks also held steady, leading 6-4, 2-5.

The comeback, however, rested on Spearman, who lost her first set 6-3 but was in position to tie it up in the second set leading 5-4. The comeback would not come to fruition as Spearman sputtered down the stretch, losing two straight games and ultimately the set 7-5.

After the match, head coach Colt Gaston chose to focus on the positives.

“I thought we did a good job in doubles, playing aggressive and setting the tone early,” he said. “Our freshmen, Tate and Mackenzy, continue to build on their solid seasons. Cassidy gave it everything she had at No. 2 to give us an opportunity in the match. But credit to Ole Miss for being the better team today.”

Missouri will return home for two matches next weekend against two of the SEC’s toughest teams. The Tigers will host No. 21 South Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m. After that, the No. 1 Florida Gators will travel to Columbia on Sunday to close out the weekend, with the first serve scheduled for 12 p.m.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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