Tigers find success in doubles, falter in singles in final days of Mizzou Invitational

Serena Nash collected three wins in the last two days of play.
Sophomore Serena Nash in her match against Kansas State freshman Anna Turco on September 23, day three of the Mizzou Invitational.

Following a much-improved performance from last weekend's season opener on Thursday at the Mizzou Invitational, the Tigers continued their success into the weekend. Missouri walked away with nine wins, despite several disappointing finishes.

On Friday, the Tigers, for the first time all season, found success with their doubles pairings.

Sophomore Mackenzy Middlebrooks and senior Clare Raley got in the win column early with a 6-4 win over the Memphis pairing of Claire Sullivan and Josephine Cao.

Sophomore transfer Serena Nash and freshman Ellie Wright followed their teammates’ lead and collected a second doubles victory with a 6-4 win over Meghan King and Ines Mesquita of Kansas State.

The Tigers’ lone doubles loss on the day came from senior Amina Ismail and freshman Marta Oliveira, Missouri’s sole ranked duo at No. 32 in the country. Ismail and Olivera dropped their match to Kansas State's Carolina Costamagna and Anna Turco 6-4.

In singles play, just two Tigers came away with victories.

Nash collected her second win on the day in a three-set marathon match 5-7, 6-2, 10-7 over Wichita State's Gabriela Porubin.

Raley also added to her win total on the season, besting Ting-Ya Hsu of Wichita State in straight sets 6-0, 6-2.

The Tigers were back on the courts in the early hours of Saturday morning and they got right back to work in doubles play against Memphis.

Middlebrooks and Raley continued their stellar play from the previous day. The duo again made quick work of their opponents from Memphis, Sullivan and Katherine Cao, 6-3.

Nash continued her strong play in the tournament as she and Wright battled their way to their second victory in two days. They fended off the pairing of Josephine Cao and Lina Hohnold 7-5.

Ismail and Oliveira rebounded as they returned to the win column with a 6-3 victory over Memphis’ Hanna Sohn and Laura Bente. After a five-minute break between matches, the duo returned to the court to face the only other ranked pairing in the tournament, No. 16 Fatima Bizhukova and Porubin from Wichita State. Ismail and Oliveira put up a good fight but dropped the match 6-3.

When the Tigers transitioned to singles, Raley was the lone bright spot. The senior capped off her successful weekend with her best performance yet. Taking on Kansas State’s King, Raley visibly frustrated her opponent early and did not let up, earning a straight set victory 6-0, 6-1.

The win earned Raley the title of singles co-champion after she went undefeated in singles play with a 3-0 record.

Not only has her play improved from a season ago, but Raley's vocal presence has made the biggest difference for the Tigers this season. Raley realizes the position she is in as a veteran on the roster and is ready to step up.

“I have definitely tried to, as a senior and the only person that has been here for more than two years, I’ve definitely tried to take that leadership role,” she said. “It has been really cool seeing the younger ones grow a lot just in these first few weeks.”

Speaking after play ended on Saturday, head coach Colt Gaston felt that the weekend’s successes are a small part of a larger goal.

“You’re always trying to build toward the dual season, and I think obviously this one didn’t go as great as we wanted to, but I think that the girls learned a lot,” he said. “I really respected the fact that my team didn’t give up in any matches; they didn’t let the rope go, as we call it.”

Missouri will have plenty of time to address Gaston’s concerns as the Tigers won't return to competitive play until next month's ITA Central Regional beginning Oct. 20. The tournament, held in Lawrence, Kansas, will match the team against longtime rivals the Kansas Jayhawks.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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