Santos and Ismail fall in NCAA tournament, ending season for Missouri tennis

The No. 10 pairing in the nation lost in the first round of the tournament.
Maneater File Photo

Missouri women’s tennis’ No. 1 doubles pairing of senior Bea Machado Santos and junior Amina Ismail traveled to Athens, Georgia, on Thursday to compete in the 2017 NCAA tournament as the No. 7 seed. The duo arrived in Athens looking to become the first Tigers pairing to advance past the first round of the tournament since 2003 but ultimately came up short, ending the day in bitter disappointment after being upset in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

Ranked as the No. 10 pairing in the nation, Machado Santos and Ismail were handed the loss at the hands of the University of California’s top pairing of Maya Jansen and Maegan Manasse, the No. 34-ranked pairing in the country.

Jansen and Manasse were sharp early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first set.

From the start, Santos and Ismail showed the resilience that helped earn them their spot in the tournament. The Tigers duo battled back, taking the next two sets to shrink the gap to 3-2. The Cal pairing proceeded to win four straight games to take the first set.

Struggles continued for Missouri in the second set as the match was wrapped up in short order, and the Tigers fell in straight sets.

The defeat officially ends the 2016-17 season for Missouri tennis. The team finished the year with an overall record of 10-12 and a rough 1-10 record in the Southeastern Conference.

For the Tigers, several bright spots remain, including Ismail, who will look to build on her 14-11 singles record next year. Most of the excitement surrounding Missouri next season will be swirling around current freshman Tate Schroeder, who led the team with 17 singles wins on the year. Schroeder’s game should continue to improve as she gains more experience, and it appears that head coach Colt Gaston will have a chance to develop a dominant force that will represent Missouri on the national stage for years to come.

In order to improve next season, Missouri will have to become more competitive in the SEC, a conference filled with premier tennis programs. The Tigers’ March 12 upset over nationally ranked Texas A&M provided a glimmer of success early in conference play, but victory failed to carry throughout the rest of the spring.

Entering next season, Missouri’s largest challenge will be filling the two large holes left by Santos and fellow senior Cassidy Spearman.

The Tigers will welcome four fresh faces to help compensate the loss of the two seniors. Five-star recruit Ellie Wright was an early commit to the 2017 recruiting class. She has since been joined by Alexandra Noback, Marta Oliveira from Portugal and Serena Nash, a sophomore transfer from Oklahoma.

Coming in with low expectations and many question marks under the leadership of first-year head coach Colt Gaston, the 2016-17 season showed there is structure and leadership in place to lead the growth of Mizzou tennis to new heights.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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