Missouri tennis falls in opening round of Big 12 Championships

The team finished the regular season 1-11 in the Big 12.

The Missouri tennis team saw its season end Thursday at the Big 12 Championships in Austin, Texas. The 11th-seeded Tigers lost 4-1 in their first round contest to fifth-seeded Texas Tech.

The day began in doubles play, where the dynamic duo of juniors, Mallory Weber and Kaitlyn Ritchie, continued their success into the postseason with an 8-3 victory over Texas Tech junior Kelsy Garland and sophomore Natalie Leitch.

Thwarted in both the No. 2 and No. 3 spots by 8-5 margins, the Tigers surrendered the doubles point to the Red Raiders.

"We really had our chances in the doubles," coach Blake Starkey said. "We killed them at No. 1 doubles, and I couldn't be more proud of those two girls and the year that they've had."

In singles, the Tigers failed to fall into rhythm as a group. After losing a close first set by a score of 6-4, freshman Maria Christensen finished her second set 6-0. Christensen's loss was followed by freshman Andrea Lewis’ by a score of 6-4, 6-1.

For the second time in three weeks, Ritchie was the lead of the pack for the Tigers. In the top singles spot, Ritchie continued her impressive play with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Texas Tech freshman Sandra Dynka. The victory marked Ritchie's 50th career singles win and put her 13th on Missouri's all-time list.

But Texas Tech freshman Elizabeth Ullathorne, her team needing just one more win to clinch the overall match, put the finishing touches on a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Missouri sophomore Jamie Mera. After almost three hours of postseason play, the Tigers' season had ended.

Missouri finished the season with a 1-11 record in the Big 12 and a 6-17 record overall. The Tigers entered the Big 12 Championships on a five-match losing streak in conference play, including a 4-3 heartbreaker against Texas A&M on Sunday.

Missouri's lone conference win, a triumph over Kansas on April 9, gave it the head-to-head edge over the Jayhawks to avoid finishing dead last in the Big 12.

"It's been a disappointing season on a few different levels," Starkey said. "Mallory and Kaitlyn had great years, and we just needed more contributions from other places."

After a relatively unsuccessful year, Starkey still had a positive outlook for the year ahead.

"The outlook for this team going into next year is very good," Starkey said. "We've got two impact players coming, and all of our good stuff is coming back. I think Missouri is going to be a pretty solid team next year."

The Big 12 Championships will continue into the weekend at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center at the University of Texas. In the quarterfinals Friday, the top four teams, including four-time defending champion Baylor, will see their first action against Thursday's preliminary winners. The semifinals will take place Saturday with the finals following Sunday.

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