Missouri tennis falls to Purdue

The Tigers' coach said an early doubles loss set the tone Sunday.

Failing to capitalize on numerous opportunities throughout the day, Missouri women's tennis fell to Purdue by a score of 5-2 Sunday at the Green Tennis Center.

The day began with doubles play, which set the tone for a day of competitive matches. After the teams split the first two doubles matches, all eyes shifted to the No. 2 doubles position where Missouri senior Kristen Bleakley and freshman Andrea Lewis found themselves in a tiebreaker with Purdue sophomores Remi Martin and Anna Dushkina.

Lewis and Bleakley, who gave up a 6-4 advantage earlier in the match, again surrendered a lead in the tiebreaker. The match was decided when Purdue won its eighth point in the tiebreaker on a controversial out call.

Lewis, Bleakley and Missouri coach Blake Starkey protested to no avail. When all was said and done, Starkey refused to use the officiating as an excuse for his team's loss in doubles.

"We have to win that doubles point," Starkey said. "You're up 6-4 and then you're up in the breaker, you can't lose that. Not at home. That set the tone for the day."

In singles play, Missouri struggled at the top of its lineup. At No. 1 singles Missouri junior Mallory Weber lost decisively to senior Michelle Sammons, 6-0, 6-1. In the No. 2 spot, Purdue sophomore Jennifer Rabot avoided a third set with a win in the second set tiebreaker against Missouri junior Kaitlyn Ritchie.

The Tigers' No. 3 sophomore Jamie Mera, fell to Purdue junior Bhavani Tirumurti 7-5, 6-1.

"We need to play much better at the high part of the lineup," Starkey said.

The Tigers saw some success in the latter half of the lineup. Senior Sofia Ayala, who had earlier been victorious at No. 3 doubles, fought her way to a long, three-set win in the No. 3 singles position against Dushkina, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 7-6 (2). At the No. 6 spot, Tiger freshman Maria Christensen defeated freshman Gisella Pere, 6-1, 6-2.

On a day in which he offered little praise, Starkey had plenty for Christensen.

"This match down here is a heck of a bright spot," Starkey said. "That kid's playing great."

The loss to Purdue brought the Tigers' record to 1-2 for the season and is Missouri's second of the year to a Big Ten opponent. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers saw their overall record increase to 6-0 with the win in Columbia.

Starkey said his players were in a position to put an end to Purdue's undefeated start.

"We're playing a quality opponent in Purdue," Starkey said. "That being said, this one was right here for us to step up and take. I don't let us off the hook on this one."

Missouri will immediately get back to work in preparation for its upcoming double-header on the road. The Tigers take on Milwaukee-Wisconsin and Minnesota in Minneapolis on Saturday.

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