Analysis: Tennis team experiencing conference woes

The Tigers are 0-5 in Big 12 Play.

As the Missouri tennis team struggled through its non-conference schedule, coach Blake Starkey hoped his team would be prepared for Big 12 play as a result of fierce competition early on. Five matches into their conference schedule, the Tigers are still looking for their first win.

On its most recent road trip, Missouri dropped all three of its matches by decisive margins. In the state of Oklahoma, the Tigers fell to Oklahoma on March 26 and Oklahoma State two days later. Between the two contests, the Tigers managed to take only one of six doubles matches and two of 12 singles matches.

The Tigers then traveled to Colorado, where they were defeated 5-2 on April 3. Junior Mallory Weber notched a win for Missouri in the No. 3 singles spot, and freshman Andrea Lewis picked up her first career conference win in the No. 6 singles spot. Still, the Tigers were kept off the board once again in doubles play and failed to make an impact at the top of the lineup.

The Tigers' struggles in doubles and in the top singles positions are not new. Since the start of the season, both of these areas have proven to be trouble spots for Missouri. In the doubles point, the Tigers are 6-10 and have seen several matches slip away as a result of inconsistency in doubles.

At the top singles position, the Tigers have also failed to find a groove this season. With no one player finding success in the top slot, Starkey has changed it up throughout the season. Weber began the year at No. 1, but sophomore Jamie Mera and junior Kaitlyn Ritchie have both been given chances at the spot. None of the three have managed to produce consistently in the top slot for Missouri.

Looking forward, the focus for the Tigers should be simply on improving as individuals and as a team. Though it might be easy to look to next season with only one senior graduating at the end of the year, Starkey wants to see his girls make strides throughout the remainder of the season.

"I want to see us go play a really quality opponent and see us bring back, at a minimum, the four points," Starkey said.

The Tigers' quest for their first Big 12 victory continues at home this weekend. The Tigers take on rival Kansas at 5 p.m. Friday. Missouri is back in action against Kansas State at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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