Mizzou tennis unable to snap losing streak in senior sendoff

Seniors Bea Machado Santos, Cassidy Spearman and Kadi Fauble all played their final home match Sunday.
Seniors Bea Machado Santos, right, and Cassidy Spearman high five between points during a doubles match on Feb. 25, 2017.

Missouri women’s tennis was able to complete a full weekend of matches outdoors for the first time this spring in its final two home competitions of the season. The Tigers came into the weekend desperately trying to get back into the win column, having dropped seven straight matches.

The No. 24-ranked Tennessee Volunteers narrowly escaped defeat Saturday in Columbia, taking a 4-3 victory with them back to Knoxville. Sunday, No. 2-ranked Georgia finished off Mizzou’s home schedule in disappointing fashion for the Tigers, as the Bulldogs cruised to a 4-0 victory.

In Saturday’s matchup, senior Bea Machado Santos and her partner, junior Amina Ismail, continued to shine after soaring into the weekly ITA rankings, landing as the No. 17-ranked pairing in the country. The duo dominated their match, winning 6-1 and giving Mizzou an early advantage.

After the Tigers suffered a loss in the No. 2 position, freshman Mackenzy Middlebrooks and junior Clare Raley looked to clinch the doubles point for the Tigers. A double fault and several missed hits at the net doomed the pairing, as they fell 7-5.

Looking to rebound in singles, it was Ismail who provided the Tigers with an early spark. After struggling as of late, the junior put on a dominant performance, winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

Tennessee regained the lead after senior Cassidy Spearman fell just short of forcing a third set, surrendering the match 6-3, 7-6.

Raley picked up a crucial victory for the Tigers, tying the match at two points apiece. The win was the junior's first since Feb. 18.

Freshman Tate Schroeder found herself in uncharted territory, facing a steep deficit after dropping the first set and trailing 3-1 in the second.

The freshman willed herself back into the match, taking the second set 7-5. However, Schroeder was unable to prevail in a back-and-fourth third set, falling 6-4 for a rare loss.

Santos fought back into her singles match after dropping the first set, winning the second 6-4. She outlasted her opponent in the third, prevailing 7-6 in a tiebreak to tie the overall match at 3-3.

The match would be decided by Middlebrooks, who has provided the team with several exciting victories this season. It was a different story on Saturday, though, as she was able to force a third set but was defeated in that set 6-2, sending Tennessee into joyous celebration.

Coach Colt Gaston was a bit frustrated following the match.

“They have done a great job fighting, but you know, we're not OK with that,” Gaston said. “This was a tough one because I’m getting tired of getting close. You know that there is no excuse in our heads anymore of ‘we haven’t beat so and so.’ You know we had the A&M win, which in my mind got us past being close.”

Sunday was senior day at the Mizzou Tennis Complex as the team honored its three graduates: Machado Santos, Spearman and Kadi Fauble.

Sending the seniors out on a high note was a difficult task against No. 2 Georgia.

The Tigers would not make it easy for themselves, looking thoroughly outmatched in doubles as they were swept in matches two and three, 6-1 and 6-2 respectively.

In singles, Raley struggled early on court six, suffering a 6-2, 6-1 loss.

Spearman did not play her best tennis in her final match in front of the home crowd, as she was defeated 6-0, 6-3.

Despite facing a daunting 3-0 deficit, there was hope for Mizzou, as the Tigers found themselves tied or leading in three of the four remaining matches.

The Tigers’ comeback hopes were quickly dashed, however, as Middlebrooks faltered down the stretch, falling 6-2, 7-5.

Gaston talked briefly after the match on what made this year's senior class special.

“I think to have the leadership that they have and to see them mature the way that they have on court, fighting every single day, it was something truly special for me to get out there with them,” Gaston said.

Missouri will close out its season on the road next weekend against Auburn at 5 p.m. on Friday and Alabama at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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